The House Foreign Affairs Committee this week spotlighted the ongoing and brutal imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen imprisoned for his faith in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. Pastor Abedini was arrested by Iranian authorities in September 2012 for allegedly being a threat to Iran’s national security and has been subjected to severe interrogations, periods of solitary confinement, and physical assault.
Among those called to testify was Pastor Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh Abedini, a resident of Idaho. Mrs. Abedini explained the seriousness of the situation for her husband, particularly after being transferred by Iranian authorities to one of its most deadly prisons: “Since he arrived at Rajaï Shahr, he has been repeatedly threatened and robbed at knifepoint. At times he has awoken to find a knife-wielding prisoner standing over him at his bed… In that place, nothing but the hand of God keeps him from being killed.” She also stated that her children long for their father, especially as Christmas approaches, but she is concerned, “If we don’t do everything within our power as a nation to bring him home now – I fear he will be left to die.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee, noted in the hearing, “The United States has appealed to Iran at the highest levels, and Iran responded early last month by moving Pastor Abedini to an even more dangerous prison, housing him with violent criminals.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chair of the Middle East Subcommittee, added, “With much attention on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Administration must not turn its back on the plight of Pastor Saeed and others like him whose human rights and basic freedoms are violated every day by this deceitful and oppressive regime.”
Mrs. Abedini, too, added her voice to the call for broad religious freedom: “I am standing here before you today because religious persecution is real. And until we stand up as one – as Americans, as political leaders, and government officials, as people who have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights – we will not truly embrace the responsibility that comes with that freedom.”
Naghmeh Abedini is scheduled to speak in the Sunday worship service at the NRB 2014 International Christian Media Convention in February. The American Center for Law and Justice, a NRB Member, has been at the forefront of advocating for the Abedini family.
• Watch this full hearing and read witness testimony here.
• Find NRB’s letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini here.
• Find more coverage from the American Center for Law and Justice.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: December 13, 2013