POCATELLO — Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned Boise pastor Saeed Abedini, says her life today is filled with frequent trips throughout the U.S. and abroad to ensure people remember her husband’s plight and to find that one person or country that might be able to secure his release from Iran.
Abedini will speak in Pocatello on April 6 in the Calvary Chapel at 1633 Olympus Drive at 6 p.m.
“It’s something that has been very difficult for me. I have had to do it at a time when my kids really need me,” Abedini said, adding that she is traveling 15 to 20 days out of the month. “I have no other choice. My husband needs me, and my kids need me to fight for their daddy. I didn’t think I would ever have this lifestyle, nor did I want it.”
Saeed, an Iranian native, converted to Christianity from the Muslim faith in 2000, became an ordained minister in 2008 and a U.S. citizen in 2010. Until Saeed’s arrest, the Abedinis had been active in establishing “house churches” for Christians in 30 different Iranian cities.
Saeed was in Iran in the summer of 2012, his ninth trip back there, and was helping to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht, when he was arrested in July of that year. By September, he was taken to Iran’s Evin Prison, infamous for its brutality. In January of last year, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
He was convicted of undermining national security.
Naghmeh said it wasn’t for any activity her husband was involved with while there in 2012, but his efforts a decade earlier — helping establish those home churches — that was called into question.
But it wasn’t creating those home churches that was the problem, according to the Iranian government.
“Even now, peaceful gatherings of Christians is allowed,” Naghmeh said. “What they are saying is that he was really undermining the government at the time. They are saying it was really a soft war on the Iranian government. They are calling him a political prisoner.”
Naghmeh’s efforts to keep her husband’s plight in the forefront has her meeting with high-profile individuals throughout the world, and speaking at significant events.
At this point, nearly two years into the ordeal, Naghmeh is hopeful that the U.S. government will push harder for Saeed’s release, and the release of other Americans held as political prisoners in Iran. But the signs are not leading her to optimism.
In fact, she felt recent nuclear negotiations between the two countries, especially given the fact that the U.S. released some $500 million in sanction relief for Iran as part of the agreement reached, was an opportunity missed.
“One of our core values in this country is religious freedom,” Naghmeh said. “I expected that they would discuss this. Unfortunately, there was no discussion of Saeed or other Americans who have been held. I voiced my disappointment that when our government had the leverage, they didn’t use it. I believe this was our best chance.”
Her goal at this point is finding another country, one that has a strong trade relationship with Iran, that might take up the cause and speak out for Saeed and the release of others imprisoned for similar reasons.
She and others working on Saeed’s behalf, are even trying to get Pope Francis involved.
“For some reason, the Iranian government responds to the Pope,” Naghmeh said. “I have been trying to get him to speak out about Saeed.”