It’s been nearly two years since Iran native and U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini was sentenced to prison in Tehran for ministering to orphans. His wife, Naghmeh, is calling Christians worldwide this Friday to unite in prayer for her husband on the anniversary of his imprisonment.
Through letters and contact with relatives in Iran, “Pastor Saeed” Abedini has described extreme mistreatment at the hands of prison guards, miscarriages of justice in the Iranian courts, and his ongoing suffering from internal injuries. The American Center for Law and Justice, an advocate for religious liberty domestically and abroad, has obtained hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition to the United Nations, European Union, and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights calling for Abedini’s release. But so far, the Iranian Shia government has not responded.
In July of 2012, Abedini, who holds dual citizenship in Iran and the United States, was arrested while appointing leadership for an orphanage in northwest Iran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard accused Abedini of crimes against the state’s security, evidently referring to Christian evangelism he and others undertook before the present government came to power. At that time, says Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice, such evangelism was legal.
After interrogating him, the Revolutionary Guard consigned Abedini to house arrest with his Iranian parents for several weeks. Shortly thereafter, officials raided the home and took Abedini back into custody. His family did not receive word on his location for days. When they did, the news was grim. Abedini had been moved to solitary confinement in Evin Prison, one of the most infamous and brutal facilities in the country.
In Evin, Abedini endured abusive interrogations and beatings, accusations of apostasy, death threats, and denial of urgent medical care. His assigned judge, Pir-Abassi of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, has earned a reputation for abusing human rights, having presided over the executions of numerous political prisoners on dubious charges.
In 2013, Pir-Abassi sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison after a trial in which officials allowed the defense mere hours to prepare its case. Abedini remained at Evin until last March, when authorities moved him to Raji Shahr, a prison where, explains Naghmeh, “murderers, rapists [and] the very worst of the worst criminals are placed.”
Iranian officials made apparent moves toward providing medical treatment for Abedini’s injuries, even moving him to a hospital before rescinding the order and returning him to prison.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report condemning the “arbitrary and illegal detention of American Pastor Saeed Abedini and urging his immediate release.”
Despite this, Abedini remains in prison where his wife says he continues to suffer symptoms of his injuries. Naghmeh issued the call earlier this month for a worldwide prayer vigil for her husband and persecuted Christians everywhere. Thursday, she and her children will meet with Reverend Franklin Graham in Washington, D.C. to ask for God’s protection and justice for Saeed and others suffering for their Christian faith.
Christians in the United States, where worship and evangelism are unrestricted, have a particular obligation to pray, both for Abedini and fellow prisoners for Christ, and for those persecuting them. In 2 Timothy 2, the Apostle Paul urges that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made on behalf of all people.” Jesus specifically instructed His followers to pray for their enemies and do good to their persecutors (Matthew 5:44), and in Romans 12:15, Paul commands Christians to mourn with those who mourn — assuredly a call to comfort and empathize with Naghmeh and the rest of Abedini’s family.
Click here to learn more about hosting or attending a prayer vigil near you for Pastor Saeed.
- U.N. Condemns American Pastor Saeed’s “Arbitrary” Imprisonment as We Urge His Release | ACLJ | Jordan Sekulow | September 16, 2014
- Saeed Abedini’s 2-Year Prison Anniversary Marked by Prayer Vigils | Religion Today | Russ Jones | September 22, 2014