I would have never imagined that I would spend my ninth wedding anniversary – coming up on June 30th – alone, with my husband in captivity in Iran for his faith.
Nor could I have imagined that when Saeed and I said our vows for better or worse, just how those vows would be tested as I waited and prayed for my husband’s return to our family one year later.
On June 22, 2012, as I had so many times before, I kissed my husband goodbye in the early hours of the morning for what was intended to be a short trip to Iran to obtain the final approval from the Iranian government on a non-sectarian orphanage.
While our family was hopeful this trip would mark the opening of the doors to the orphans we had longed to make a part of our family, we were also excited for Saeed’s prompt return so we could get started on our summer plans.
We had dreamed of a secure future in which our family would take the long-awaited trip to Disneyland Saeed had promised our son Jacob for his fifth birthday.
I could not have imagined that when Saeed and I said our vows for better or worse, just how those vows would be tested as I waited and prayed for my husband’s return to our family.
But two days before his hopeful return, the picture of our family’s future dramatically changed.
On July 28, 2012, Revolutionary Guards forced my husband off of a bus in Iran and put him under house arrest.
Suddenly, I was forced to trade certainty for uncertainty. My ideas and conceptions of the future were stripped of their relevance and value, and plans that I had no reason to change were forcefully overturned.
What would the future look like now?
For the last year, I have been traveling into a future that I once thought would follow some semblance of normalcy.
Life was now anything but normal.
The future became even more uncertain when, on September 26, 2012, my husband was forcibly taken to Evin prison – a place with memories that haunt our family.
You see, when I was a young girl, my 18-year-old uncle was executed without warning in Evin prison because his political views differed from the new radical Regime. Our family knows all too well the uncertainty of Evin.
The only certainty I knew was hard to swallow: there would be no Disneyland for Jacob’s fifth birthday, not because I would not gladly take him, but because Jacob, with the tenacity of a young man beyond his years, said he would not go without Daddy.
Saeed would miss our children’s first day of school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and every memorable event in between.
For now, there would be no regular nightly routine of tucking our children into bed together or quiet moments shared between a husband and wife.
Even with Iran’s record of persecuting religious minorities, I never imagined my husband being arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison solely for his Christian faith.
As I sit here today, I would give anything to see that picture of our family come together again. All the little things that define our family are treasures to me now.
I would not have chosen the future in which I have to dry my children's tears, and blink back my own, as I tell them I still don't know when Daddy is coming home—but this is our family picture now.
Yet, even as our hearts are strengthened as hundreds of thousands of people take up the global cause of my husband’s freedom, our family is faced with the brutal reality of his absence.
Like hundreds of other families of Iranian prisoners of conscience, we face daily uncertainty.
There’s been much discussion already about how Hasan Rouhani, the new president-elect of Iran, will deal with the West – how he will deal with the many issues facing Iran.
Unfortunately, Rouhani, despite his reformist claims, does not offer any more certainty than his predecessor or any solace to me or my children.
While I hope for change, I cannot place my hope in one man. But I do pray the heart of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who ultimately controls Iran’s treatment of prisoners of conscience, is softened towards his people, towards my husband, and towards others being held captive because of their beliefs.
I pray that the fog of uncertainty lifts to reveal a clear future, reuniting Saeed in the warm embrace of our family.
Naghmeh Abedini currently resides in Boise, Idaho with her two young children. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing her and her family in the fight for Pastor Saeed’s freedom. To learn more about her family’s story, and how you can help her husband, Saeed Abedini, visit SaveSaeed.org.