Editor's note: Naghmeh Abedini and her two children reside in Idaho and are represented by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which continues its work here and abroad to secure her husband Pastor Saeed Abedini’s freedom.
One year of abuse. One year of absence.
One year of separation from his young children. One year that my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, has endured the brutality of illegal imprisonment in Iran.
One year ago, the government of Iran imprisoned my husband because of his Christian faith. Earlier last summer, Saeed travelled to Iran – something he had done many times without incident – to finalize work on a government-endorsed orphanage we had been building in northwest Iran.
Without warning, members of the Revolutionary Guard pulled him off of a bus and put him under house arrest in his parents’ home in Tehran.
On September 26, 2012, members of the Guard came to the home and took him away – in chains – to Evin Prison, where he has remained ever since.
His year-long absence really hit home earlier this month as I prepared my children for another school year.
I found myself facing a piercing pain in my heart that is becoming too familiar. I wiped away the tears quickly. I had to be strong for my kids.
As fathers and mothers crowded the classrooms on the first day of school, my children’s eyes rested on the fathers hugging their boys and girls, wishing them a good first day of school.
Their own father’s absence was painfully obvious. Saeed was not there to see his kids off to their first days of kindergarten and first grade, all because 13 years earlier, he decided to become a Christian.
One of the most difficult moments of the past year came just a few days ago, when Rebekka, our seven-year-old, celebrated her birthday on September 12th – the second birthday without her dad.
When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, her answer was simple: daddy.
She asked me how many more birthdays will she have to celebrate without daddy? I did not have an answer.
There was one bright spot – and a surprise – on Rebekka’s birthday. As I shared with “Fox & Friends,” her father was able to send her a letter – written in his prison cell – an emotional birthday greeting that brought both smiles and tears to our family.
He told her that he rejoiced and wept at the “pictures [of her] behind the glass window” his parents showed him during visitations to his prison cell.
“I recently saw the picture with you holding a guitar,” Saeed wrote. “It is so hard and so heart breaking for me to see these pictures and to know that I am not there beside you as you grow.
He told her that she and her brother were his “little heroes” because they have stood strong during his absence.
“I came here to help the kids that did not have mommies and daddies, but my own kids lost their daddy,” Saeed wrote. “This breaks my heart so much. I want you to know that I did not want to put so much pressure on your little shoulders, my precious children.”
This has been the most difficult year of our lives. I dearly miss my husband, and our children miss and desperately need their father.
During these past 365 days, we have been sustained as the world has lifted our family in prayer.
On September 26, the year anniversary of Saeed’s imprisonment, I will be joining thousands of people to pray at vigils across the country and around the world.
Instead of letting this grim milestone pass in silence, we are praying in unity for Saeed’s freedom.
As a Christian, I believe that every prayer counts. As a U.S. citizen, I also believe that each voice counts.
As we gather, I hope the unity of our prayer will also impress upon our government, especially President Obama, the importance of standing for religious freedom and speaking out on behalf of Saeed.
Saeed’s illegal imprisonment is an issue that should cross both religious and political barriers.
This is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is not a Christian or non-Christian issue. This is a human issue. We cannot afford to remain silent.
My family and I know that if Saeed is not freed soon, we will have to face more birthdays, holidays, dance recitals, graduations – and every precious moment in-between – without him.
And with Saeed’s appeal having been rejected by the Iranian government, we are not sure when, or even if, we will ever see him again.
As we pray aloud and call out for justice, we will carry on with hope and faith.
Through all of this, Saeed remains an inspiration to our family. He continues to embrace his faith – which has kept him alive in that prison cell – and he continues to offer hope and encouragement to me and our children.
“In this new year of your life I want you to stand strong as you have stood the previous year and be patient and endure,” he wrote to Rebekka.
Our daughter reads that birthday letter from her father every day.
Especially, the ending: “With much love to my true little hero . . . With kisses and wide expecting eyes . . . I am proud of your little, but strong shoulders!”