Wife and warrior Naghmeh Abidini testified at a Congressional hearing last Friday to raise national awareness for her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, and to urge the State Department and President Obama’s Administration to take long-overdue action. Saeed is an Iranian-born U.S. citizen who was arrested in Iran last July and imprisoned in the notoriously brutal Evin prison. The Islamic Regime of Iran claims that Pastor Saeed is a national security threat, and yet, even they have stated that the real reason for his imprisonment is his Christian faith. Saeed converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000 and subsequently started an underground church movement. He and his wife have been living in America as U.S. citizens and have traveled back to Iran many times. This past July, Saeed made another trip to Iran in order to gain final approval for the orphanage he is building. This project had the full approval of the Iranian government, and he has complied with all of their past demands with regards to his activities in the country. However, he was arrested in July 2012 and, at the beginning of this year, he was sentenced to eight years in Evin prison.
The U.S. State Department and the Obama Administration have been glaringly absent in this case. In fact, they have done more in the past for non-U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran than they have been willing to do on behalf of Pastor Saeed. They were notified about the hearing, but their response was that they had no one available to attend. Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the hearing, Naghmeh said, “Silence in the face of evil, in itself is evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak; not to act is to act.” The State Department’s shameful lack of acknowledgement of this issue, especially their refusal to send a representative to the hearing, is absolutely appalling. Congress has acted on this issue, but it is the State Department and the Obama Administration’s responsibility to lead this case and demand Saeed’s release. While White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has made mild comments in response to media questioning on this issue, President Obama has remained entirely silent. Likewise, the only comments that have been made by the State Department have been in response to questions from the media or from Members of Congress.
During the recent U.N. meetings, the E.U. spoke out specifically on behalf of Pastor Saeed, and yet, when it came time for the U.S. delegation to speak, they made no mention of his name. “Imagine you’re a U.S. citizen detained for your faith abroad, and the E.U. is speaking out, but your own country is remaining silent,” said Jordan Sekulow, attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and Nagmeh’s legal counsel.
However, thanks to the tireless efforts of Naghmeh, the relentless work of the ACLJ, the extensive and regular coverage by Fox News, the over 100 Congressmen who signed a letter to the State Department, especially the specific leadership of Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) on the Hill with this issue, Congressman Frank Wolf’s (R-Virginia) leading of the Congressional hearing, and the 538,000 Americans who have signed the petition and called their representatives, a State Department representative did finally agree to meet with Naghmeh to discuss her husband’s imprisonment and torture.
Congress has done what it needs to do. Americans are doing their part, as the petition for Saeed’s release increases by about 15,000 signatures a day; it is now at nearly 600,000. Many public figures, including several Christian recording artists and politicians, have spread the news about this issue to their audiences. Now is the time for the State Department and the Obama Administration to get their act in gear or face the growing outrage of the rapidly increasing number of Americans who are following this case. Naghmeh and her ACLJ attorney, Jordan Sekulow, appeared on Fox News this morning setting this Friday as a deadline for the State Department to make a clear statement demanding Saeed Abedini’s release.
Please join CWA and continue to pray for the immediate release of Pastor Saeed Abidini. If you were not able to watch the Congressional hearing and Naghmeh’s moving testimony, you can watch it here.
Chelsen Vicari, CWA’s Communications Strategist, contributed to this article.