Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Hitoshi Igarashi


Age: 44
Nationality: Japan
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Unknown


Date of Killing: July 12, 1991
Location of Killing: University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan
Mode of Killing: Stabbing
Charges: Religious offense

About this Case

Mr. Hitoshi Igarashi is one of hundreds of individuals who have been extrajudicially executed outside of Iran since the 1979 revolution. In many cases, these killings were carried out by agents of the Islamic Republic or can reasonably be assumed to be the result of Iranian government policy. Information about Mr. Hitoshi Igarashi's case was drawn from the Iranian newspaper Jomhuri Eslami (March 4, 16, and July 17, 1991), the New York Times (July 13, 1991), a talk by Professor Shigemi Inaga at the International Conference on the Dialogue of Civilizations at the United Nations University (July 31-August 3, 2001), and Amnesty International report (May 1, 1997) .

Mr. Igarashi, a respected Islamic scholar in Japan, was the translator of The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and the controversial novel, Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie. This novel was the object of a 1989 fatwa (religious edict) by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in which he had condemned to death the author of the Satanic Verses and those involved in its publication and dissemination.

Mr. Igarashi's murder was linked to his translation of Rushdie’s novel. After the demise of Ayatollah Khomeini, his successors reconfirmed the fatwa. On February 15, 1991, Ayatollah Sane'i, the head of a state sponsored foundation called Bonyad-e Panzdah-e Khordad (created by the Iranian Government on June 15, 1979) appeared on Iranian TV and offered $3 million to any Iranian and a $1 million to any foreigner who killed Rushdie; he raised the prize money to $2 million on March 4, 1991. On March 15, 1991, the same foundation announced that in order to implement Khomeini's death fatwa, it would compensate, support, and protect those who volunteer to kill individuals involved in the publication and dissemination of the Satanic Verses (Jomhuri Eslami, March 16, 1991).

Mr. Igarashi is not the sole victim of the fatwa; the Islamic Republic’s authorities targeted other individuals involved in the translation or publication of the Satanic Verses. On July 3, 1991, the Italian translator of the novel, Ettore Caprioli, was attacked in Milan and stabbed; he survived the assassination attempt. The Italian police investigating Mr. Caprioli's case announced that the assailant had connections with the Islamic Republic's Embassy. On October 11, 1993, William Nygaard, Salman Rushdie's Norwegian publisher, became the victim of an assassination attempt and survived against heavy odds. The Norwegian government reacted to this attack by recalling its ambassador to Iran.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Hitoshi Igarashi was never arrested.


Mr. Igarashi was not summoned before a court, and no public trial was held in his case. It is not known whether he was tried in abstentia in Iran.


No specific charges were brought against Mr. Igarashi. However in his 1989 fatwa, Ayatollah Khomeini charged all the people involved in the publication and dissemination of the Satanic Verses with "insulting the sacred beliefs of Muslims."

Evidence of guilt

The Japanese version of the Satanic Verses.


Mr. Igarashi was not given the opportunity to defend himself before being killed. However, since there was an international debate on the fatwa, he had explained his decision to translate the Satanic Verses. According to Shigemi Inaga (August 1-2, 2001, Kyoto): ".... Igarashi also defended the novel and novelist by locating the writer in the lineage of the Islamic mystical Sufi thought. According to Igarashi, Rushdie was not anti-Islamic, but his passage to England, just like Passage to India by E. M. Foster, represented a literature of exile and could be judiciously compared to the Hejra by Muhammad, to begin with, or to the "Western Exile" in Kairouan by Suhrawardi. By interpreting the Verses as a modern version of Rumi's "Song of a Reed," lamenting the separation from (the) God/Creator, Igarashi identified Rushdie among the mystical and heretic poets of Islamic rage against religious profanation. Igarashi, as a Japanese man, wished to make an intervention as a third party through his Japanese translation, so as to put an end to this endless conflict."


On February 14, 1989, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a death fatwa against the author, the editors and publishers of the Satanic Verses in the following terms: "We are from God and to God we shall return" (Koranic verse). I am informing all brave Muslims of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, a text written, edited, and published against Islam, the Prophet of Islam, and the Koran, along with all the editors and publishers aware of its contents, are condemned to death. I call on all valiant Muslims wherever they may be in the world to kill them without delay, so that no one will dare insult the sacred beliefs of Muslims henceforth. And whoever is killed in this cause will be a martyr, God Willing..." (Ruhollah al-Musavi al-Khomeini). On March 5, 1991, a resolution issued by Iranian officials stating that Khomeini's fatwa shall not be void after his death and should be implemented by all means. On July 12, 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi was found stabbed to death on the campus of Tsukuba University, about 40 miles northeast of Tokyo. The police reported that a janitor had found Mr. Igarashi's body near an elevator on the seventh floor of the building with slash wounds on his neck, face, and hands.

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