As I type this post, my ACLJ colleagues are testifying before the U.S. House’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on behalf of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith (we represent his family). Naghmeh Abedini, his wife, is also testifying. While Congress has demonstrated bipartisan concern for Pastor Saeed, the State Department’s lack of action is simply stunning.
While State Department and White House spokespersons have called for his release in response to press questions, the State Department not only declined an invitation to send a representative to the hearing, it critically failed to address Pastor Saeed’s plight when given the opportunity to address Iran at the U.N. Human Rights Council. The U.N. Special Rapporteur spoke up for Saeed, the European Union spoke up for Saeed, and Australia spoke up for Saeed. What did Pastor Saeed’s adopted country say? Nothing.
Long experience working with prisoners of conscience teaches us that silence equals death. I can remember writing letters as a college freshman on behalf of specific Soviet dissidents — realizing that so long as they were remembered, so long as they weren’t utterly lost in the Gulag, they had a chance. We’ve even seen Christian pastors released from Iranian death sentences with sufficient international outcry.
As was noted in the hearing today, the State Department has not issued even a single press release on behalf of Pastor Saeed. It has issued press releases on spring break safety, but nothing on behalf of an American Christian citizen held hostage in Iran. There’s still time for the secretary of state to engage, but as Saeed Abedini is tortured and abused in Iran’s most brutal prison, that time may be running out.