For the first time ever, the families of the four Americans imprisoned in Iran are uniting – speaking out before Congress to secure the release of their loved ones. Pastor Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, is speaking out Tuesday – along with the families of the other captive Americans – in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In addition to Naghmeh’s testimony, the panel of witnesses includes Sarah Hekmati, sister of former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati; Ali Rezaian, brother of The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian; and Daniel Levinson, son of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. All U.S. citizens wrongfully held in Iran.
The timing of Tuesday’s testimony comes as an end-of-the-month deadline for reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran looms – a deadline that many fear could produce an agreement without securing the release of the captive Americans.
That must not happen. It’s time for the United States to secure the immediate release of these Americans.
In written testimony submitted to the House Committee, Naghmeh will urge members of Congress to engage to take an active role in securing her husband’s freedom:
“For the past 3 years I have been carrying with me a deep excruciating pain knowing that my husband continues to suffer yet another day in one of the worst prisons in the world.
I am here today as single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who humbly admits, I need your help. I cannot bear to look at my children’s longing eyes one more time and explain to them why their daddy is still not home. I cannot bear to see their hopes crushed again. I cannot imagine my husband spending yet another day in an Iranian prison. I need your help. I cannot do this on my own.”
Naghmeh relies on her Christian faith to make it through these very difficult times. And it is that very same Christian faith that is the sole reason her husband has been imprisoned for nearly 1,000 days:
“The Iranian government has repeatedly told Saeed he holds the key to his freedom – but this key would be to deny his faith and return to Islam. Yet, Saeed has refused to deny his faith in Jesus Christ in the face of torture and abuse. Saeed has been moved from prison to prison (Evin to Rajaei Shahr prison). He had been put in a murderers’ ward where he was told that if other prisoners found out that he was a convert from Islam to Christianity, they would kill him. Saeed has been in and out of solitary confinement 3 times now (the last time was April of this month) and told that he would never be set free unless he returns to Islam.
Doctors have confirmed Saeed needs two surgeries. But my biggest concern right now is not Saeed’s physical health, but rather his psychological health. I often think about the condition that Saeed will be in when he is released and how our family would have to cope with that—what father will return to my precious children? Time is of the essence in getting Saeed out of the Iranian prison before it is too late.”
It is difficult to imagine what the Abedini family has been through. Naghmeh remains determined, as we do, to bring her husband home. That means keeping Pastor Saeed – and the other captive Americans – in the media spotlight. And that also means applying continuing pressure on the White House and members of Congress to do everything in their power to bring these Americans home.
Naghmeh says her husband – a U.S. citizen – is depending on his country for help – for life-saving assistance. Her message Tuesday for members of Congress is simple and direct:
“This is the time that Saeed needs his country the most. Please do not abandon him.”