‘Any Day Could be Execution Day’

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

On Capitol Hill today, on the 444th day of her nightmare, Naghmeh Abedini plead with U.S. lawmakers to put pressure on Iran to release her husband from Iran’s worst prison, jailed with the most violent criminals. Her husband’s crime? Converting from Islam to Christianity.

Mrs. Abedini testified before a joint session of two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by N.J. congressman Christopher Smith.

She told the congressmen:

Since he arrived at Rajaï Shahr, he has been repeatedly threatened and robbed at knifepoint. At times he has awoken to find a knife-wielding prisoner standing over him at his bed.

Prisoners have murdered other prisoners, while prison officials stood by and did nothing. In that place, nothing but the hand of God keeps him from being killed. Each day he remains in that dreadful place could mean a death sentence; any day could be execution day.

He has been beaten until the pain was so great he could not stand. For months he suffered from symptoms of internal bleeding. A few months ago he was given medication, and he had been improving. His father, who is still in Iran, was able to visit Saeed about once a week. Saeed’s dad would take pictures of our kids in to the prison and press them up against the glass. Saeed would just stare at the pictures the entire time for the few short minutes they were able to talk.

Once, Saeed was able to write a letter to our kids. He wrote, “It is so hard and so heart breaking for me to see these pictures and to know that I am not there beside you as you grow. I came here to help the kids that did not have mommies and daddies, but my own kids lost their daddy. This breaks my heart so much. I want you to know that I did not want to put so much pressure on your little shoulders, my precious children.”

Now that he has transferred prisons, he is again being denied his medication. The pain has returned. He has faced almost daily threats to his life. He is malnourished, losing weight, and covered from head to toe in lice because of deplorable prison conditions.

I fear the worst for Saeed. Even worse, I fear that our children, Rebekka Grace, who is 7 years old, and Jacob Cyrus, who is 5 years old, may never see their daddy again.

A resident of Boise, Idaho, the pastor was in Iran at work on an orphanage. Her plea was to President Obama to use his leverage as the President of the United States to keep her children from losing their father:

While I am thankful for President Obama’s willingness to express concern about my husband and the other imprisoned Americans in Iran during his recent phone conversation with Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, I was devastated to learn that the Administration didn’t even ask for my husband’s release when directly seated across the table from the leaders of the government that holds him captive.

My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He is suffering because he is an American. Yet, his own government, at least the Executive and diplomatic representatives, has abandoned him. Don’t we owe it to him as a nation to stand up for his human rights, for his freedom?


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