USA Today reports today (April 4, 2013) an entire Article on Saeed! Thank you for sharing and spreading the word. It is making a difference in getting other secular media to cover Saeed’s imprisonment in Iran:
Saeed Abedini, a Christian convert who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, is in an Iranian prison, convicted of threatening national security with church work. A movement to free him is gaining momentum.
Efforts to win the release of an American pastor held in a notorious Iranian prison got a boost from comments by Secretary of State John Kerry that gave a nod to U.S. allies to quietly intervene, the pastor’s wife and supporters say.
Saeed Abedini, 32, a native of Iran who became a naturalized American citizen in 2010, is serving an eight-year sentence. Iranian authorities said he threatened the country’s national security by helping to found “house churches” for evangelical Christians in Iran, said Jordan Sekulow,executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh.
Kerry’s statement gave “a kind of green light” to U.S. allies that have diplomatic relations with Iran to push Iran to release Abedini or get him medical treatment, Sekulow said. “Since the Kerry statement, that work is finally beginning to be done. It’s a good sign.”
Kerry said March 22 that he is “deeply concerned” about Abedini’s fate and about reports that he suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison “and that his condition has become increasingly dire.” He called on Iranian authorities to release Abedini immediately or give him medical treatment.
A State Department spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said diplomatic efforts to secure Abedini’s release are ongoing and Iranian authorities reportedly have agreed to give him medical attention.
Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said Abedini was tried as any Iranian citizen with a competent legal defense. He did not respond to a question about how Abedini’s behavior threatened the Iranian state.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is relatively tolerant toward so-called ethnic Christians who belong to Assyrian, Khaldian and Armenian minorities, who have lived in the country for centuries, said Faraz Sanei, Iran specialist for Human Rights Watch. They have fewer job opportunities than Shiite Muslim Iranians, especially in government, and face discriminatory laws on inheritance and marriage, but they are not treated as harshly as Muslim converts to Christianity such as Abedini, he said. The converts are not allowed to build churches, so they worship secretly in their homes, Sanei said.
Converts and ethnic Christians together number 270,000-500,000 in a country of 80 million people, according to Human Rights Watch.
The regime views converts, whose evangelical religion calls on them to spread the faith, as a threat to the orthodox Shiite faith propagated by the government, Sanei said. Since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, authorities have cracked down on many religious and spiritual movements that draw young people away from the Shiite faith, including evangelical Christians and the more numerous Sufis, Bahai and self-help spiritual practitioners, who have grown in popularity under the repressive Islamic regime, he said.
“The government feels threatened by these movements because it threatens their hold and grasp on the population,” Sanei said.
Iranian Christians are not involved in political theology but preach a “very simple theology about the message of Jesus Christ,” said David Yeghnazar, U.S. director of Elam Ministries, a Christian evangelical ministry founded by Iranian Christians.
Elam advocates on behalf of dozens of Iranian Christians arrested in recent years, including Abedini, Farshid Fathi and Behnan Irani. Fathi, who was first arrested on national security charges in 2010, remains in Evin Prison, where inmates have been tortured and beaten, Yeghnazar said.
The U.S. government should speak out more on behalf of Christian detainees, he said.
“We understand from people who have been in prison, anytime they’re spoken about in the press or the news, their condition changes in prison,” he said. “If the president would do that, it would make a difference for them right away.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said the Obama administration spoke on Abedini’s behalf only after Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., held hearings on his case.
“No administration, even dictatorships, wants to be subjected to any kind of embarrassment,” Smith said. “When issues are prioritized by the United States, it makes a difference. … It works with radical Islamic regimes. It worked with the Soviets and with Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler.”
Abedini was arrested in September while working in Iran under the guidance of Iranian authorities to establish an orphanage for Muslim children, said Naghmeh Abedini, who lives in Idaho with the couple’s two children, Rebekka, 6, and Jacob, 5.
He had agreed not to do any more work for the church movement, a condition for re-entering the country. Abedini was charged with undermining national security in relation to house churches he established from 2000 to 2005, Sekulow said.
It is important for other countries to raise the issue with Iran, Sekulow said, because Abedini has been beaten and tortured and has internal bleeding that has gone untreated.
“He’s written us that he’s not getting medical attention that other inmates have received because the medical personnel consider him unclean because he is Christian,” Sekulow said.
Naghmeh Abedini said, “Some days I’m afraid if we don’t move fast enough, he will lose his life there.”
Categories: Christian persecution