"Saeed holds to what he believes and will not give in under any pressure from the Revolutionary Guards. He is standing up for religious freedom in a country that has no respect for human rights . . . Are we going to stand up as a country and protect a citizen whose human right of religious freedom is so clearly violated? Americans are not all Christians; but every American?regardless of their beliefs?wants to be reassured and know that our government will take decisive action to protect us if someone uses force to try to make us abandon or change our beliefs." ?Naghmeh, Pastor Saeed's wife
(Washington, DC) ?On Friday, March 15, I, along with ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow and Pastor Saeed's wife Naghmeh, presented testimony before a standing-room only crowd at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. Congress about American Pastor Saeed Abedini and the worsening plight of Christians in Iran.
[Our] testimony before this bipartisan commission of Congress presented the best opportunity yet to elevate Pastor Saeed's case within our own government.
I told the Commission that we all appreciate the strong bipartisan efforts of Congress on Pastor Saeed's behalf. More than 100 Members of Congress, including 20 members of the Commission, have personally condemned Iran's unlawful detention of Pastor Saeed for his religious beliefs.
In my prepared remarks I told the Commission:
I'm hopeful that today's hearing will highlight the commitment to this case that so many of you have shown, and that the world will hear the U.S. government speaking with one voice in strong defense of our fellow citizen, Pastor Saeed Abedini.
Pastor Saeed was convicted by the Islamic Republic of Iran for his religious beliefs after what can only be described as a sham trial. He has been beaten, tortured, and told he will hang for his Christian faith. He was sentenced to eight years in one of Iran's most notoriously brutal and deadly prisons. He is currently suffering innumerable human rights abuses as Iran violates its own constitution and numerous international treaties to which it has willingly bound itself, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While Congress' support has been tremendous, I expressed our extreme disappointment with the lack up public support from the State Department.
[We] remain deeply concerned that this case does not appear to have received the prioritization of similar cases where an American has been wrongfully detained. Many will recall the story of the American hikers who mistakenly wandered into Iran, or the current story of the retired FBI agent who is missing in Iran. In both of these cases, those involved received presidential level support and engagement?and rightfully so, I might add. It is discouraging, however, that Pastor Saeed's case is not being addressed at that level . . .
Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, also expressed her disappointment with our government's lack of prioritizing Pastor Saeed's case. She told Congress: "I must tell you that I am disappointed [that our government has] not fully engaged this case?disappointed that this great country is not doing more to free my husband, a U.S. citizen. Yes, we are both proud to be American citizens. And I expect more from our government."
She recalled how proud Saeed was to become a U.S. citizen, saying, "Saeed became a US citizen in the year 2010. I remember Saeed saying it was one of the best days of his life and he was so proud to be an American. He was so excited, he announced it on his social media and soon after, a flag was sent to him from Senator Carl Levin's office for the occasion of Saeed becoming a citizen. He was so proud!"
Naghmeh also shared with Congress the struggle her family has endured because of her husband's wrongful imprisonment in Iran. She said, "My husband, Saeed Abedini, who is an American citizen has been sentenced to 8 years in prison inside of Iran because of his conversion from Islam to Christianity. We have two kids, Rebekka Grace who is 6 years old, and Jacob Cyrus who is 4 years old. A day does not go by that they do not ask for their daddy. A day does not go by that they do not long for him. Most nights they cry themselves to sleep, wanting daddy home. I have not had the heart to tell them of the 8-year sentence. I am hoping that I will not have to tell them of the 8-year sentence. I am hoping that we can bring Saeed home soon."
"Saeed holds to what he believes," she continued, "and will not give in under any pressure from the Revolutionary Guards. He is standing up for religious freedom in a country that has no respect for human rights. Are we going to stand with him? Are we going to stand up as a country and protect a citizen whose human right of religious freedom is so clearly violated? Americans are not all Christians; but every American?regardless of their beliefs?wants to be reassured and know that our government will take decisive action to protect us if someone uses force to try to make us abandon or change our beliefs."
In conclusion, she said, "Saeed is a husband and amazing father. The kids and I miss him terribly. Our kids hold onto the hope of seeing their daddy very soon. The truth is we do not know if we will ever speak to him or see him again. Many mornings they wake up and start running around the house and in the yard. I ask them what they are doing and they say [they are] very disappointed. 'It must have been a dream,' they say. 'We saw daddy was home and he was going to twirl us around.' I hold back my tears as I tell them that it was a dream. I still do not have the heart to tell them that if we don't do anything, that daddy might never survive the horrific Evin prison . . . I do hope we can work together to bring Saeed home and I will never have to tell my kids of the dire situation their father is in . . ."
Said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow at the conclusion of his testimony: "In the case of American Pastor Saeed Abedini?imprisoned in Iran because of his Christian faith?we have heard from nearly 500,000 people around the world who are demanding his release. The more attention to his plight, the better. The more news coverage?the more public involvement ? the better. Iran needs to understand that the world is watching . . . We must all do all we can. The American people are clearly standing up for Pastor Saeed. Yet, the State Department, despite repeated assurances that it is doing all it can for Pastor Saeed, is clearly not, as evidenced in part by their refusal to appear before today's congressional hearing."
We will continue the fight for Pastor Saeed's freedom. Please continue to pray and speak out for the release of this persecuted pastor.