Saviano's Mob Threats Add Him to List of Persecuted Authors
Roberto Saviano, hunted by the mafia, joins the ranks of authors Salman Rushdie and Hirsi Ali in seeking freedom through exile.
Though his book exposing activities of the Naples, Italy mafia has sold more than a million copies, Roberto Saviano is miserable. The success of the book, “Gomorrah,” (a word play on Camorra, the name of the Naples crime family) drew the ire of the crime family when it was published two years ago, resulting in a public death threat. For two years, Saviano has lived like a fugitive, with bodyguards his only companions. Now that the book has been made into a film that has been submitted for consideration at the Oscars, his enemies have vowed to kill Saviano and his bodyguards by Christmas. On Wednesday, several suspects were arrested in connection with a plot to carry out this vow with a highway bomb.
Saviano is hardly the first author to face public death threats for writing about controversial topics. Perhaps the best-known death threat against an author was a “fatwa,” or Islamic religious ruling, issued by Iran’s ruler Ayatollah Khomeni in 1989 against Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” aroused such ire that he has lived in exile for nearly three decades, and three of his translators have been brutally attacked, one fatally.
In 1994, Taslima Nasrin, an author in Bangladesh, was the subject of a fatwa calling for her death because her book “Shame” criticized treatment of women under Islam. According to Time magazine, 100,000 demonstrators protested against her outside of the Parliament building in Dhaka. One group said it would release thousands of poisonous snakes unless she was executed. Of her confinement, Nasrin told Time, “It was like living in a jail cell. I felt as if I was dying every moment.”
In 1997, Horacio Castellanos, a novelist from El Salvador, went into hiding in Mexico City after receiving death threats for his novel "El Asco" ("Revulsion" in English), which exposed the Guatemalan genocide of the 1980s. Castellanos has written a second novel, “Insensatez” (“Senselessness” in English), based on human rights reports from the Archdiocese of Guatemala. He relocated to Pittsburgh with the help of an organization for persecuted authors.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born activist for Islamic women's rights, and author of the book “Infidel,” has, like Nasrin, also received death threats from Muslim extremists for the past several years. Hirsi Ali collaborated with Theo Van Gogh on “Submission,” a film about the suffering and abuse of Muslim women. Van Gogh was murdered on a Dutch street in 2004. Undaunted, Hirsi Ali wrote and published her autobiography, “Infidel” in 2007.
That same year, the Hague rescinded its earlier promise to protect Ali, citing financial reasons, and she moved to the United States. Ali explains in "Infidel": “People ask me if I have some kind of death wish. The answer is no. However some things must be said.”
Tags: Saviano , Mob , Mafia , Authors
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