Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor and American citizen, has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year. In that time period, he has been severely tortured, robbed, threatened at knife point, and suffered severe health problems. The Iranian government has sentenced him to another eight years in Rajaishahr, one of Iran’s harshest prisons with frequent reports of torture, rape, and murder. On Thursday, December 12, at 9:30 a.m., Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, will be speaking before a congressional committee to ask for their support in defending his fundamental human rights.
What is his crime? In the summer of 2012, Saeed was in Iran to open an orphanage in Rasht—with the permission of the Iranian government. The Iranian government then charged him with endangering national security.
In fact, Saeed is imprisoned for his faith. He converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000. In the early 2000s—when Iran tolerated Christian converts—Saeed was involved in the Iranian Christian house church movement.
After the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the new Iranian government began to persecute the house church movement, leading the Abedini family to move to America after he was detained in 2009. He was released on the condition that he desist his involvement in religious activities—an agreement that Saeed upheld. After the move to America, he became an ordained minister and American citizen in 2010.
Saeed’s wife, who is also an American citizen and lives in Boise, Idaho, with their two children, has been outspoken in her husband’s defense. She has called on President Obama to recognize her husband’s citizenship and religious freedom:
I am extremely disappointed that President Obama has chosen to remain silent on this critical human and religious rights case of an American imprisoned in Iran.
After a year of imprisonment, the U.S. State Department recognized the Iranian actions:
We condemn Iran’s continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini’s human rights and release him.
Despite the State Department’s statement, Saeed continues to remain imprisoned.
Thankfully, his wife will not let his cause go unheard. As Naghmeh Abedini testifies before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, she is standing not just for the rights of her husband but for the fundamental rights of all. She stands not only for Saeed but all people persecuted around the globe. All Americans should stand with her.