|Born||May 7, 1980|
|Known for||Imprisonment in Iran|
|Spouse(s)||ex-wife Naghmeh Abedini (div. Per FB pg Oct 2016)|
|Children||2 (son and daughter)|
Saeed Abedini (Persian: سعيد عابدينی, born 7 May 1980) is an Iranian American Christian pastor who was imprisoned in Iran for threatening "national security" by making Christian gatherings. On January 16, 2016, he was released from prison with 2 other American prisoners. Abedini, a naturalized American citizen, reportedly has dual-citizenship, with the US and Iran. Iran, however, does not recognize his American citizenship.
Abedini is an American and a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000. While Christianity is recognized as a minority religion under the Iranian constitution, Muslim converts to Christianity suffer discrimination at the hands of Iranian authorities. In particular, such converts are disallowed from worshipping with other Christians in established Christian churches, which has led to the establishment of so-called "house" or "underground" churches where these converts can worship together.
In 2002, Abedini met and married his wife Naghmeh, an American citizen. In the early 2000s, the Abedinis became prominent in the house-church movement in Iran, at a time when the movement was tolerated by the Iranian government. During this period, Abedini is credited with establishing about 100 house churches in 30 Iranian cities with more than 2,000 members. With the election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in 2005, however, the house-church movement was subjected to a crackdown by Iranian authorities and the Abedinis moved back to the United States.
Abedini's first trip back to Iran was in 2009 to visit his family, when government authorities detained him. According to Abedini, he was threatened with death during his interrogation over his conversion to Christianity. Ultimately he was released after signing a pledge to cease all house-church activities in the country. As part of this same agreement, Abedini was permitted to return to Iran freely to work on non-sectarian humanitarian efforts.
In 2008, Abedini became an ordained minister in the U.S. and in 2010, he was granted American citizenship, thus becoming a dual Iranian-American citizen. Abedini had been living the past several years with his family in Boise, Idaho, where his wife grew up. The couple has two young children and they are members at the Calvary Chapel church in Boise.
In July 2012, Abedini made his ninth trip to Iran since 2009 to visit his family and continue his work to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht. While in the country, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confiscated his passports and placed him under house arrest. He was transferred to Evin Prison in late September.
In mid-January 2013, it was reported that Abedini would go on trial on January 21, and could face the death penalty. He was charged with compromising national security, though the specific allegations were not made public. His supporters said his arrest was due to his conversion and attending peaceful Christianity gatherings in Iran. On January 21, 2013, Iranian state media reported that Abedini would be released after posting a $116,000 bond. His wife, however, stated that the government "has no intention of freeing him and that the announcement is 'a game to silence' international media reports."
In November 2015, Naghmeh Abedini began to back away from the high-profile speaking of her husband's campaign, telling supporters by e-mail that he has been abusive to her and she can "no longer live a lie." Christianity Today published two e-mails Naghmeh Abedini sent to supporters about her troubled marriage, which began in 2004.
She confirmed that she had experienced "physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse through her husband's addiction to pornography." She wrote at the time, "The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed's imprisonment," which she confirmed on Saturday. The two had been speaking by phone and through Skype, but she said she has not spoken with him since October.
On January 27, 2013, Judge Pir-Abassi sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison. According to Fox News, Abedini was sentenced for having "undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and ... attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam." The evidence against Abedini was based primarily on his activities in the early 2000s. Abedini was meant to serve his time in Evin Prison. The U.S. State Department condemned the sentence: "We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion and we call on the Iranian authorities to respect Mr. Abedini's human rights and release him."
Early November 2013, Abedini was transferred from Tehran to the Rajai Shahr prison in the town of Karaj, which is populated with heavy criminals, and has harsher, sometimes life-threatening, conditions.
Calls for release
Amnesty International has repeatedly raised the issue of Abedini's imprisonment, calling him a prisoner of conscience and calling upon Iran to release all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
In May 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed, 90-0, a resolution calling upon the Iranian government to immediately free Abedini and two other Americans imprisoned in Iran, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian, and to cooperate with the U.S. government to locate and return Robert Levinson, who is missing in the country. The resolution was introduced by Senator James Risch of Idaho, Abedini's home state.
In March 2015, in a message commemorating the Nowruz (the Persian new year), President Barack Obama listed Abedini, Rezaian, and Hekmati, by name and called for their release. Obama said, "[Abedini] has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father." Obama also met with Naghmeh Abedini during a January 2015 visit to Boise.
In July 2015, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Obama again listed Abedini, Rezaian, and Hekmati by name calling for their release (and for cooperation to find Levinson) and saying, "We are not going to relent until we bring home our Americans who are unjustly detained in Iran." Secretary of State John Kerry said the same month that there was "not one meeting that took place" during the nuclear talks from 2013 to 2015 (which led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) at which the United States didn't raise the issue of the four Americans.'
On January 16, 2016, Saeed Abedini was released from prison. Iran said they were being swapped for seven Iranians held in US prisons but there was no immediate US confirmation. "In addition, Iranian state TV said 14 Iranians sought by the US would be removed from an Interpol wanted list." The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, Marine veteran Amir Hekmati and Nosratollah Khosrawi were also released by Iran.
In 2015 during his imprisonment, Abedini was accused by his wife of years of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. She also stated that Saeed was addicted to pornography. He had previously received a suspended 3-month prison sentence for domestic assault in 2007.
On January 27, 2016 Reuters reported that Naghmeh Abedini filed for legal separation. On October 6, 2016 Saeed posted the following on his Facebook page: "My heart is deeply saddened to be sharing the news that Naghmeh and I will be divorcing...There are no words to describe the ongoing effect of the trauma I experienced and my family has experienced both during and in the aftermath of my imprisonment. We are different people, and we are hurting people. It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together."
- Christianity in Iran
- Freedom of religion in Iran
- Human rights in Iran
- List of former Muslims
- Youcef Nadarkhani
- "Wife of American pastor jailed in Iran: Tehran has no intention of freeing him despite report". Associated Press. 21 January 2013.[permanent dead link]
- Perry Chiaramonte (14 January 2013). "American pastor imprisoned in Iran to go on trial next week". Fox News.
- "US lawmakers urge release of Christian in Iran". AFP. 14 February 2013.
- Lisa Daftari (19 December 2012). "American pastor imprisoned without notice of charges while visiting family in Iran". Fox News.
- Perry Chiaramonte (20 January 2013). "Wife of Christian held in Iran waits as trial, possible death sentence looms". Fox News.
- "Iran sentences American pastor Saeed Abedini to 8 years in prison". Fox News. 27 January 2013.
- Perry Chiaramonte (10 January 2013). "Imprisoned American pastor tells family of death threats, torture in Iran". Fox News.
- "Boise church members pray for jailed pastor". KTVB. 21 January 2013. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013.
- Carol Kuruvilla, After one year in Iranian jail, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini pens heartfelt letter to daughter, New York Daily News (September 26, 2013).
- George Prentice, Idaho Pastor Sentenced in Iran to 8 Years in Prison, Boise Weekly (January 27, 2015).
- "US Christian faces death in Iran trial: family". Agence France-Presse. 17 January 2013.
- Pulliam, Sarah. "Wife of pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran for his faith, explains the 'shock' of his release". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- "U.S. condemns sentencing of American pastor in Iran". Reuters. 27 January 2013.
- Jordan Sekulow, Matthew Clark (6 November 2013). "Pastor Saeed Abedini faces grave new danger". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Iran: New briefing reveals crackdown on dissent ahead of election, Amnesty International (June 12, 2013).
- Elise Auerbach, Why the Iranian Government Should Listen to the King Who Died 3,000 Years Ago, Amnesty International USA (March 11, 2013).
- Associated Press, Senate Passes Resolution for Release of Americans in Iran (May 11, 2015).
- Katy Moeller, Obama makes new appeal for Saeed Abedini's release, Idaho Statesman (March 21, 2015).
- Obama calls on Iran to release 'unjustly detained' Americans, Guardian (July 21, 2014).
- "Report: Iran releases 4 dual-nationality prisoners, Post reporter Rezaian reportedly among them". Fox News. 16 January 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
- "Cruz hails release of U.S. pastor held in Iran". 16 January 2016.
- 'Pastor Abedini Disputes Wife's Marital Abuse Allegations,' CBN Nes 1 February 2016.
- "The Watchman with Erick Stakelbeck". TBN. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
- Klayman, Ben (27 January 2016). "Wife of U.S. pastor freed by Iran files for legal separation". Reuters. Retrieved 9 February 2016.