The moderator on stage when Sir Salman Rushdie was attacked has revealed his gruesome eye injury as he spoke publicly for the first time since the horrific stabbing.
Henry Reese sustained severe bruising and a minor cut to his eye while holding down the legs of Hadi Matar, 24, who stormed the stage and knifed The Satanic Verses author multiple times in Chautauqua, New York.
Sir Salman suffered severe, life-changing injuries and underwent emergency surgery but he is now believed to be conscious and helping police with their investigations.
Reese, a former telemarketing entrepreneur from Pittsburgh who founded the City of Asylum as a haven for persecuted writers, told the Atlantic: ‘This is a very bold attack against the core values of freedom and ways of resolving differences short of violence, with art, literature, journalism.’
Asked how he was doing after the incident, Reese told the BBC: ‘I’m doing well, everything is proceeding – I’m doing quite well.
‘I think our concern is for Salman, and I mean that for himself, but also what he means in the world.’
Henry Reese, the moderator at Sir Salman Rushdie’s lecture, has revealed his gruesome eye injury as he spoke publicly for the first time
The acclaimed writer suffered severe, life-changing injuries and underwent emergency surgery
Asked what the incident meant for the importance of Sir Salman’s values, Reese added: ‘There couldn’t be anything more vivid in its materialization of our values.
‘Our mission is to protect writers who are in sanctuary and to see Salman Rushdie assaulted for his life is unimaginably… it’s hard to describe what it is to see that happen in front of you.’
Reese and his wife, Diane Samuels, have transformed a Pittsburgh street into a haven for persecuted writers and artists under the City of Asylum, created in 2004.
The couple crossed paths with Sir Salman in 1997 when the author gave a lecture in Pittsburgh about his organization called the International Parliament of Writers which helped protect writers in danger.
Reese and Samuels were then inspired to start their own residency program in their home city.
Sir Salman attended a fundraiser there in 2005 and the pair remained friends.
Reese said it would be ‘my ideal’ to one day return to Friday’s venue and continue the conversation with Sir Salman.
‘That would be my ideal to do that, and to see that happen and to not be in any way impeded in doing what we set out to do,’ he said.
‘To both show that these values will be defended and that they can be defended.’
The fake driver’s license that was found on 24-year-old Hadi Mater bore the name Hassan Mughniyah. Both, the first and second names are linked to infamous terrorist organization Hezbollah
Salman Rushdie (pictured in Los Angeles in 2013) has now been taken off a ventilator and can speak. There had been fears he would be left unable to talk after the attack last week
Despite his ‘life-changing’ injuries Sir Salman has retained his ‘usual feisty and defiant sense of humor’, his family has said.
The author suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye but was taken off a ventilator on Saturday.
It comes after Downing Street condemned the suggestion that Sir Salman might bear any responsibility for the attack as ‘ludicrous’.
The remarks came after an Iranian government official on Monday denied that Tehran was involved in the assault on the author, in remarks that were the country’s first public comments on the stabbing attack.
Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, told journalists: ‘We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters.
‘Nobody has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.’
He added: ‘We believe that the insults made and the support he received was an insult against followers of all religions.’
Sir Salman’s attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to charges stemming from the assault and is due to appear in a US court on Friday.
The award-winning author has faced death threats over his book, The Satanic Verses, for more than 30 years.
Asked about the comments from Tehran, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Clearly it’s ludicrous to suggest that Salman Rushdie was in any way responsible for this abhorrent attack on him.
‘This was not just an attack on him, it was an attack on the right to free speech and expression. And the UK Government stands both by him and his family but equally we will stand in defense of free speech around the world.’
Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after being issued ‘spiritual’ death threat by Iran
Sir Salman Rushdie is a Booker Prize-winning author and novelist.
The 75-year-old was born in India, and his writing is often based around the themes of connections and migrations between Western and Eastern civilizations.
He won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his second novel, Midnight’s Children. His writing has spawned 30 book-length studies, and over 700 articles on his writing.
Rushdie’s writings have broadly been acclaimed to the genres of magical realism and historical fiction.
He has been living in the US since 2000, and he was named a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University in 2015.
He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, including for Midnight’s Children, in 1983 for Shame, in 1988 for The Satanic Versus, in 1995 for The Moor’s Last Sign, and in 2019 for Quichotte.
Rushdie, 75, is an Indian-born acclaimed author and novelist