Lebanese city stays silent on Salman Rushdie’s alleged attacker


The dwelling city of the daddy of Salman Rushdie’s would-be murderer is a forbidding place, the place Shia Islamic iconography sits amongst palatial mansions, bullet-pockmarked properties and cautious locals, who for now need nothing to do with guests.

Yaroun, on Lebanon’s border with Israel, has lengthy been a centre of Iran’s four-decade-old battle with Israel. Its ridges and valleys have been key to a number of wars, and photographs of its martyrs line most streets, together with the ever-present yellow banners of its strongest participant, Hezbollah.

Hadi Matar’s father and prolonged household stay right here, amid staunchly conservative, prosperous neighbourhoods. Newly constructed palaces tower from hilltops. Streets are swept clear and highway employees are busy doing upkeep work, a rarity in a rustic in financial freefall. However Yaroun clearly takes care of its personal.

And so it did when the Guardian visited the mayor’s workplace within the centre of city, on the lookout for instructions to Matar’s household. “I’m not going to speak about this topic,” the mayor responded curtly. “No person else right here will discuss to you about it and I counsel you to depart now.”

A cleric in a white headdress was equally standoffish, although extra well mannered. “What’s your title and why are you right here?” he requested. “Go ask close to the hair salon.”

Murals within the city of Yaroun. {Photograph}: Aziz Taher/Reuters

Matar, who was born within the US, is believed to have spent a number of summers in Yaroun, from his late teenagers onwards. His allegiance has been the topic of hypothesis, each in Lebanon and in New York, the place he has been charged with Rushdie’s tried homicide. However his driver’s licence gives some clues. He used a false first title and surname on his official doc, Hassan Mughniyah, a confluence of Hezbollah’s chief and its most storied commander.

Whether or not Hezbollah or Iran performed a job in directing Matar to allegedly stab the author, or whether or not he felt empowered to take action by the 33-year-old fatwa, is the topic of rivalry throughout the area. Iranian state media on Monday disavowed any direct hyperlink however claimed Rushdie had deserved to be assaulted due to his guide The Satanic Verses, wherein some say he described the prophet Muhammad in blasphemous phrases.

Hezbollah-linked media have additionally pulled no punches, describing the assault variously as a “strike within the neck” of the creator, or “God’s revenge”.

However on a stifling midsummer afternoon, nothing moved in Yaroun, and few folks took to the streets. Those that did stored their heads down, strolling solemnly previous murals that pay homage to the Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, and Iran’s two most up-to-date supreme leaders, Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the fatwa in opposition to Rushdie, and Ali Khamenei, who endorsed it.

The slain Iranian common Qassem Suleimani additionally options prominently, as does the Hezbollah army commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by the CIA and Mossad in Damascus 14 years in the past.

All 5 males have been on the flight deck of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ efforts in southern Lebanon and across the area. Their murals’ outstanding presence within the centre of city spoke to their significance amongst a inhabitants that needed little to do with the aftermath of the Rushdie assault.

“The mom [of Hadi] informed me she needed to not discuss with the media and requested me to maintain them away,” mentioned an assistant to the mayor earlier than the Guardian’s go to to Yaroun on Monday.

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