A 32-year-old Iranian who is a US citizen has been imprisoned without notice of any formal charges while visiting his family in Iran, according to Fox News. Reverend Saeed Abedini, who lives in the US with his wife and two young children, was visiting his extended family in Iran when he was reportedly pulled off a bus and interrogated by the Iranian government.
Abedini spent many years as a Christian leader in Iran, working as a community organizer developing Iran’s underground home church communities. In Iran, converts to Christianity are not allowed to meet and worship in public, and have therefore organized an underground community for converts.
After persecution for their work in the Christian community, Abedini and his wife left Iran in 2005 to settle in the US and raise a family. On the pastor’s last trip to Iran to visit family, the Iranian government pulled him off a bus and said he “must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.”
He was originally held at his parent’s home under house arrests, according to his wife, but is currently awaiting trial at Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison. He has been incarcerated there since September, when the Iranian police ambushed his parent’s home, putting the family under house arrest and taking Abedini into custody.
According to Abedini’s wife, her husband’s extended family is under house arrest, as well.
“When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country. His passion was to reach the people of Iran,” Naghmeh, his wife, told Fox News.
“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,” she said.
On September 26, five men allegedly kicked open the door of Abedini’s parents’ home in Tehran. They confiscated all communications devices and arrested Adedini while placing the rest of his family members, who are also Christians converts from Islam, under house arrest.
Naghmeh reported that her husband is “the father of a house church movement,” and that over the course of his involvement, the movement had about 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities, with more than 2,000 members.
“It was just growing so fast. They see the underground churches as a threat and they see Christianity as a tool from the West to undermine them,” Naghmeh said. “They think if the country becomes more Christian, they are no longer under Islamic authority. That’s why it’s a threat.”
But Christianity “saved his life,” Naghmeh says of her husband. Abedini converted to Christianity at the age of 20, after undergoing training as a suicide bomber.
Abedini was recruited in high school by a radical Muslim group and taken to the mosque to be trained, she says. Fox News reports, “The more he sought to be a devout Muslim and the deeper he went into training, the more depressed he became.”
“It’s hardest on the kids,” Naghmeh said of her husband’s absence. “Saeed was a stay-at-home dad. My daughter said she is forgetting Daddy’s voice and she asked me, ‘Do you think he has a beard now?’ I didn’t even think of that. She keeps playing the home videos over and over. It’s the hardest at night because he had a night routine with them when he would read them books and tuck them in. They miss that the most.”
The National Review Online calls for Iran to free Abedini, noting: “Simply put, Iran cannot be permitted to imprison and abuse American citizens.”