On February 14, 1989, then Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the hardline leader of Iran, issued a fatwa or religious mission to anyone who could achieve it: kill author Salman Rushdie for the blasphemy included in his novel The Satanic Verses. Every year around that anniversary, the state run media outlets in Iran get together and occasionally up the bounty on his head for whoever can achieve the fatwa of Rushdie’s head.
Last week, those state run agencies added another $600,000 to the pot, bringing the total to about $4 million dollars.
The decree had already put a considerable price on Mr. Rushdie’s head: A religious organization called the 15 Khordad Foundation initially offered a $2.7 million reward to anyone carrying out the fatwa, then increased it to $3.3 million in 2012. The new money, bringing the total bounty to nearly $4 million, came from 40 news outlets listed by Fars, which said that it had contributed $30,000.
The New York Times reports that there is a question on the matter of the bounty actually being paid. Most of the news agencies involved are actually state owned and subsidized. Their money is the government of Iran’s if they are making any at all.
There have been back and forth reports that the fatwa itself was called off or finished in 1998, but the current Ayatollah considers the mission to be “on” as it were, and the raising of the bounty may well bring more people out of the woodwork after Rushdie’s life.
According to multiple reports, political infighting has begun inside Iran, and this escalation of the bounty on Rushdie’s head may well be just a smokescreen.
“This is just to overshadow the elections, because the hard-liners and their media want to dissuade people from voting in large numbers,” said Mojgan Faraji, a reformist journalist. She said the hard-liners drag up issues from the past to confuse people and to “make other issues more important than voting.”
Whatever is the case, Rushdie needs another set of deadbolts.