An American pastor who was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison for planting house churches in the country has reportedly sent another letter to his family detailing the suffering and abuse that he is enduring while incarcerated.
Saeed Abedini’s letter, which was written on scraps of newspaper, was received this Thursday by his wife Negmeh. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing Abedini and fighting for his freedom, released the text of the letter Friday.
As previously reported, 32-year-old Abedini, who resides in Idaho with his wife and children, has been incarcerated in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since late September for allegedly threatening the national security of Iran by planting house churches in the country a decade ago, and for attempting to turn youth in the nation away from Islam and toward Christianity.
“Hello to my dear love and wife,” the letter begins. “When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer. She was crying.”
“I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself,” Abedini continued, speaking of how the torture that he has endured has taken a toll on his physical appearance. “My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”
He stated that he understands that the situation has been difficult for his family.
“[M]y dad says every single day that ‘this week I will get my son out of prison.’ But this does not happen and he is not able to get me out of prison,” Abedini stated. “You, my wife, on the other side of the world, alone with the kids. Alone and worried. My family here in Iran, being interrogated, tired and under so much pressure. … I started praying for my family.”
The pastor also explained that although he is in great pain, he is being denied medical care in prison because he is considered “unclean” since he is a Christian.
“The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others ‘in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha’i (religion) and Christians are unclean!'” Abedini outlined. “She did not treat me, and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had. According to the doctor’s instructions, they would not give me the pain medication that they would give other prisoners because I was unclean.”
However, Abedini told his wife that he forgives all of those who have mistreated him behind bars.
“I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed,” he said. “I forgave the interrogator who beat me. Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye.”
“The minute I forgave them and loved them, that second I was filled with unspeakable joy,” Abedini explained. “I saw in the eyes of the interrogator that he had come to respect me and as he was leaving, he could not look behind him. Love is as strong as death.”
He said that although conditions are horrifying in prison, he has found freedom in forgiveness and joy in Jesus.
“Even though many would call me unclean and filthy and would not even want to pass by me, and they had abandoned me and they were disgusted to touch me because they were afraid that they would also become unclean, I knew that in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and in the eyes of my brothers and sisters, I am … not disgusting and unclean,” Abedini wrote. “[L]ike the rats, I can scream with joy within those prison walls and worship my Lord in joy and strength.”
“The joy of the Lord is my strength. Amen.”