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Citing abuse, wife of U.S. pastor held in Iran says she’ll stop public campaigning

American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Muslim convert to Christianity, was arrested in September 2012 in Iran because of his religious beliefs. (Photo courtesy of ACLJ)
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The wife of an American pastor jailed in Iran is withdrawing from the high-profile campaigning she has been doing since his 2012 arrest, telling supporters by e-mail that he has been abusive to her and she can “no longer live a lie.”

Saeed Abedini, a native of Iran and a convert from Islam to Christianity, is a prominent figure, particularly for Christians concerned about religious persecution in the Middle East. He and his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, were active in establishing small house churches in Iran, where such evangelizing is extremely dangerous. He was convicted in 2013 of threatening Iran’s national security. He has strongly denied the charges.

Christianity Today on Thursday cited two e-mails Naghmeh Abedini sent last week to supporters about her troubled marriage.

“Those troubles include ‘physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),’ ” she wrote, according to Christianity Today. “The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed’s imprisonment.”

Naghmeh Abedini, who grew up in Boise and lives there with the couple’s two children, has become a public figure for the cause of religious freedom. She recently cancelled plans to speak at an Iowa religious liberty conference and at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville next spring, the Christian site reported.

“It is very serious stuff and I cannot live a lie anymore,” she wrote. “So, I have decided to take a break from everything and seek the Lord on how to move forward.” She said she also plans to stay off social media for several months.

Last month in an op-ed for The Washington Post framed as a letter to President Obama, she wrote about the agony for their family of Saeed Abedini being imprisoned and said she had hoped that the nuclear deal would mean hostages like her husband would be freed.

Naghmeh Abedini asks Obama to help bring her husband home

“The continued imprisonment of Saeed has taken a very emotional and tragic toll on our family. My kids have had to grow up without a father. Saeed has missed so many birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions,” she wrote last month in The Post.

In one of the e-mails, she described her husband as a treasure, who is battling demons:

“I wanted to be real and ask you to pray for real things (I have opened myself up to you), but without judgment and without losing your love for your brother Saeed who is fighting for his life in the dark prison. This is what the Lord has been showing me, to love unconditionally the way He loves us. To see the sin, but love the sinner and to intercede for freedom from the sin. And not to give up. Not to ever give up on your loved one. To persevere and to endure.”

In a statement to Christianity Today, Abedini said she regretted sending the e-mails, which were written in a time of emotional distress.

Among the Americans held in Iran is Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been held there for more a year. On Thursday Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said he would raise the reporter’s case this weekend when Gentiloni meets with the Iranian president.

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