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Editor's note: Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Paster Saeed Abedini who is currently being held prisoner in Iran, is scheduled to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 about her husband's plight.
For nearly a year, the Iranian government has tried to silence my husband, Saeed Abedini, through illegal imprisonment, torture, and threats against our family.
My husband, a U.S. citizen and loving father of our two young children, has been held in Iran's brutal Evin Prison because of his faith -- without a voice to fight for his freedom.
I must, therefore, be his voice.
In light of his failing health due to repeated beatings by his captors and their refusal to give him necessary medical care, I cannot sit idly by – time is running out.
A pastor by trade, Saeed went to Iran as part of an ongoing project to build an orphanage for children in need and to visit his family. Barely a month into his work, Iran placed Saeed, who is a 33-year-old dual Iranian-American citizen, under house arrest, without charge.
In September, our worst fears were confirmed when I received a phone call in the middle of the night notifying me that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had taken him away to Evin.
On January 27, 2013, after months of physical and psychological torture, an Iranian Revolutionary court convicted my husband of “endangering national security” because he had peacefully gathered with fellow believers in private homes and sentenced him to eight years.
Saeed is not guilty of violating any Iranian law; instead, he is being held as a prisoner of conscience because he had exercised his fundamental human rights and converted from Islam to Christianity.
In Iran, converting to another faith – whether it be Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism – is viewed as the ultimate threat to the regime. On two separate occasions Iranian authorities have placed him in solitary confinement in an effort to force him to recant his Christian faith.
Today it is my responsibility to be Saeed’s voice as I address the United Nations Human Rights Council on his behalf in Geneva, Switzerland. Over the past week, I, along with representatives of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), have met with world leaders, including representatives of the U.S. government, to communicate the dire situation that my husband faces on a daily basis.
Every day he is held in prison could lead to his death.
My request is simple: that the international community joins me in crying out against his persecution.
During my time at the United Nations, I have also been fortunate to meet with other members of the Iranian Diasporas - from Muslims to atheists and human rights defenders to victims of Iran’s persecution. Several of those I met reported that prisoners recently released from Evin had praised the unity and love Saeed brought to those inside the prison walls -- a rarity in such a contentious environment.
As Saeed’s wife, it encourages me to know that Saeed has become a symbol of courage to those fighting for human rights in Iran, regardless of their ethnicity or religious creed.
As Saeed wrote in a recent letter from prison, “I heard that the persecution, my arrest and imprisonment has united churches from different denominations, from different cities and countries, that would never come together because of their differences.”
I am hopeful that our work at the United Nations will be a step forward in facilitating Saeed’s release.
I am so thankful to the 600,000 people in the United States and from all across the world who have signed a petition at SaveSaeed.org calling on Iran to release my husband.
I am also thankful to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and various U.S. Ambassadors for recently recognizing the gravity of my husband’s case.
We must add more voices to the call for Saeed’s release and the respect of human rights in Iran. The time has come for action. The United States and the international community must do all within our power to defend the basic human rights of those in Iran so that we do not compromise our integrity at home.
Please join me in calling for Saeed’s release, not just for my family, but also to spur action to protect human dignity, freedom of expression, and religious tolerance across the globe.