Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, testified alongside three other relatives of Americans who are currently imprisoned or missing in Iran in the presence of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. She detailed the pain that she and her two children have had to endure during the nearly 1,000 days that her husband had been imprisoned.
"Over the last three years, I have had to watch my two children, Rebekka, who is eight years old, and Jacob, who is seven years old, suffer daily as they have grown up without a father or a mother. I am here today as a single mother who is trying to be strong for her children, and as a wife who hubmly admits, I need your help."
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American, was arrested and imprisoned in 2012 for holding a Bible study, and while he was in the midst of planning to build an orphanage in the country. According to Naghmeh Abedini's testimony on Tuesday, the Iranian government has been pressuring him to renounce his Christian faith in order to be freed.
"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," Naghmeh Abedini stated. "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 ... 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 year) and told that he would never be set free unless he returns to Islam."
"Today, I ask you to stand with him as he stands for his faith in Jesus," she continued. "This is the time that Saeed needs his country the most. Please do not abandon him."
Since her husband's imprisonment, Naghmeh Abedini has been advocating for his freedom, gaining the attention of political figures and groups including President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United Nations. President Obama made a phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 demanding Abedini's release, and Kerry has continually made public statements expressing concern for Abedini and calling on Iran to release him.
Abedini's story has also gained much attention from the public since his imprisonment. Over 917,000 have signed a petition demanding Abedini's release.
However, tangible progress on his release has yet to be seen.
Abedini shared in her testimony that, despite the difficult circumstances, she and her husband find their strength and hope in Christ:
"When you are living a nightmare, no religion in the world can help you. The do's and don'ts of religion cannot bring much peace and comfort. Only an intimate relationship with our Maker can bring about the supernatural peace and strength that is covering our family today. And that relationship is only possible through the acceptance of the heavy price that was paid on the cross by Jesus Christ. Today, that salvation is available for all who believe. Our family has relied on this personal relationship to endure the pains, and to overcome the daily worries and concerns ...
I know that God is with us in this journey, but I also know that God can use men and women to bring about freedom and justice. I hope today that someone here is motivated to be that man or woman."
Meanwhile, relatives of Amir Hekmati, Jason Rezaian, and Robert Levinson, who are either imprisoned in Iran or have been missing within Iran's borders, also made statements at the Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The Committee thereafter approved House Resolution 233, which calls on Iran to immediately release the Americans who are imprisoned, and to provide any information regarding Levinson who has been missing in Iran's borders.