An Iranian-born American pastor, who has dual citizenship in both the United States and Iran, has been imprisoned for planting house churches.
Reports state that 32-year-old Saeed Abedini was taken into custody in late September by Iranian officials, but news about the matter did not break until recently. Abedini had been visiting his family in Iran, and was also continuing humanitarian work in the country, as he has been building an orphanage since 2009.
According to his wife, Naghmeh, who remained in the U.S. along with the couple’s two children, Abedini was apprehended just before he was about to board a plane to return to the states. He had taken a brief excursion to another country, and was stopped at the Turkey-Iran border upon his re-entry. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized Abedini’s passport, subjected him to interrogation and placed him on house arrest for several weeks.
On September 26th, officials arrested Abedini at his parents’ house and booked him at the notorious Evin Prison, which is known for its brutal conditions. His family is now also on house arrest.
While the official charges are not yet known, Naghmeh told reporters that her husband was apprehended for his past involvement with planting house churches in the nation. It is estimated that Abedini had a role in founding approximately 100 house churches, which yielded 2,000 members combined. Reports state that Iranian officials are now pursuing the members of these churches.
Abedini had been raised in the ways of Islam, and had attended suicide bomber training at one time, which his wife states made him feel very depressed. At the age of 20, he converted to Christianity and has since been active in sharing his faith.
“When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country. His passion was to reach the people of Iran,” Naghmeh told reporters. “He comes from a very close-knit family, and he loved evangelizing and passing out Bibles on the streets of Tehran. This was his passion.”
After facing persecution in the country, Abedini and his wife moved to the United States in 2005 and became U.S. citizens. Abedini, however, continued to take trips to Iran to visit his family and to participate in humanitarian efforts.
Neghmeh said that since learning of her husband’s incarceration, she has been trying to privately settle the matter with Iranian authorities, but the government has refused the bail paperwork that she provided on several occasions. She told reporters that she remains concerned about Abedini as he is incarcerated with members of Al-Queda.
The American Center for Law and Justice, led by Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan, is now working to bring awareness to Abedini’s situation and is fighting for his release.
“Pastor Saeed is a dual citizen of both Iran and the United States, but unfortunately, Iran does not recognize Pastor Saeed’s U.S. citizenship,” Jordan Sekulow told WND. “The government does know, however, that in the past, thousands of Iranians have looked to Pastor Saeed as a leader of those who convert from Islam to Christianity.”
“While we hope that Pastor Saeed will not become a political bargaining chip for Iran, we recognize that Iran has in the past used American prisoners as such,” he continued. “Iran also knows, however, that it is currently on very thin ice diplomatically with many of its trade partners, and exposing its flagrant violations of human rights to the world could crack the ice.”
Abedini and his wife live in Idaho with their young son and daughter.