By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
BOISE, IDAHO (ANS) -- Imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini's wife Naghmeh communicates his plight and the family's pain with such passion and poignancy that listeners are quickly transported into their world.
Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini in happier times
That's a reality that began when Saeed, 33, was suddenly detained in Iran for his faith. He had been in Iran in mid-2012, working on the administrative details for an orphanage he was planning in the city of Rasht. He was forced off a bus at the border of Turkey and Iran, his passport confiscated and placed under house arrest at his parent's home. The nightmare was about to begin.
On Jan. 27 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, on charges of undermining national security because of his Christian faith.
Saeed was taken to Evin Prison, a facility for political prisoners, and recently transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison. He is now held in a ward for rapists and murderers, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Naghmeh and her husband, who is now an American citizen.
In a recent telephone interview, 36-year-old Naghmeh, who lives in Boise, Idaho with their two children, answered a number of questions and began by sharing how God's strength is sustaining her in spite of highs and lows.
"I get a blow, and I crumble and I fall down, but giving up is not an option," she said. "My kids need me and Saeed is in a desperate place. I'm carried by God's grace and I couldn't function without Him."
However, Naghmeh added, "I'm an everyday mom and not a super hero."
House Raid and Imprisonment
Naghmeh recalled initially feeling, after initially learning that her husband was in some kind of trouble, that the situation would be resolved in a few days. She told me that she was "surprised, but not too worried."
The nightmare began on July 28, 2012, when Revolutionary Guards forced her husband off of a bus in Iran and put him under house arrest in the Tehran home of his parents. He was on his way visit his family and finalize the board members for an orphanage he was building in Iran.
But then things took a turn for the worse when, on September 26, 2012, five members of Iran's notorious Revolutionary Guard burst into Saeed's parents' house and took him away. Naghmeh learned the news from his parents, who still have nightmares about the raid. Along with Saeed, officials also took cell phones, computers and documents.
"That had to be one of the biggest shocks I had ever received," Naghmeh said. Not surprisingly, she couldn't sleep. It was a very long night.
Naghmeh wondered about the need for the raid, as well as the use of five people to carry it out. After all, she said, Saeed "was waiting-not in hiding."
It was a week before Saeed's family learned he'd been taken to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. While she was glad to learn where he was, she said this location was very hard for her to hear, as she told me that she had visited the facility as a child to see an uncle who was imprisoned and killed there.
"Everyone who was taken there never came out alive," Naghmeh said.
Telling the Children
Naghmeh didn't tell the couple's two children about Saeed's imprisonment until a few weeks after sh e found out where Saeed was being held.
"I put myself back together first," she explained.
Prior to telling their children, whenever she was working on the computer, Naghmeh said Rebekka, 7, and Jacob, 5, would keep coming over to her and ask to speak to their dad. They had been in frequent communication with Saeed by Skype while he was away. However, Naghmeh said she kept "putting them off".
Finally, things came to a head. Naghmeh said that with tears streaming down his face Jacob asked her, "'Doesn't daddy want to hear our voice anymore?'"
Not wanting them to doubt their dad's love, Naghmeh told him that while Saeed would like nothing more than to speak to them, but he was in prison and there and he had no access to a computers or Skype.
Both children had a lot of questions, and Naghmeh said they were all in tears when she told them that "bad guys" had taken their dad.
Naghmeh initially told Rebekka that her dad would be home by her seventh birthday, but added "All the promises I made (about he r dad's return) I couldn't keep."
Coping with Saeed's Absence
Rebekka and Jacob Abedini
Not surprisingly, Saeed's imprisonment has deeply affected Rebekka and Jacob and Naghmeh said their personalities have changed.
"They're traumatized. I don't see as much of the joy," Naghmeh said.
Rebekka has tantrums, Naghmeh said. She screams and yells, but wants to talk more about the situation than her brother. She wants her dad.
Jacob had been more reserved but recently said, "I would be the happiest boy ever if daddy came home for Christmas."
Who is Saeed?
Naghmeh said Saeed has become the face of the persecuted church. "He is a fighter who doesn't back down. He's not backing down in face of death, although it tortures him being separated from his family."
She added, "What sets him apart is his passion for what he believes in, even though it may cost him his life."
There are those people who say that knowing the unpredictable behavior of the Iranian government that Saeed should never have continued his visits to Iran, the land of his birth. Naghmeh said he had to follow his passion to help Iranian orphans.
"I don't know if I could take away that passion," she continued. "That's what made me fall in love with him. I can't ask Saeed not to be true to himself. He saw the poverty and the kids out in the streets."
Naghmeh had a special request on her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/npanahi77?fref=ts&ref=br_tf).
She wrote, "As Thanksgiving and Christmas is once again approaching with Saeed painfully missing from our midst, please join with the kids and I as we place empty settings for Saeed and the persecuted church to remember that they are in chains for Jesus as we enjoy our freedoms here."
She added, "Please speak out for Pastor Saeed and the persecuted church by leaving a place setting for him at your Thanksgiving dinner."
For more information about the plight face d by the Abedini family and how you can get involved, visit www.savesaeed.com