Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born American Christian pastor, is wasting away in Tehran’s Evin prison.
Recently released from solitary confinement his health is said to be failing despite being a relatively young man. Beatings and torture have led to kidney issues and internal bleeding.
What is Abedini’s crime? Did he butcher an Iranian soldier on a street corner in Tehran? Did he explode a bomb in a crowd of bystanders or on a Tehran bus? Was he arrested for conspiring to commit some atrocity against innocent civilians?
No, Abedini’s crime is his advocacy of Christianity in Iran. This is compounded by his conversion from Islam in 2000.
In the early 2000s Abedini, and his wife Naghmeh, became involved in the promotion of Iran’s house church movement. In Iran, converts are not allowed to worship with Christians in the established churches, so they have turned to setting up underground house churches where they may congregate with fellow believers. Since his conversion, Abedini is said to have helped establish nearly a hundred such house churches with more than 2,000 other Christians in 30 cities throughout Iran.
When Mahmoud Ahmedinejad became Iran’s president in 2005, the government cracked down on the house church movement. The Abedinis moved to the United States, but continued to support their co-religionists.
In September 2012, on a return trip to visit family and continue his work setting up an orphanage, Abedini was arrested, his passport confiscated, and he was jailed in the notorious Evin prison. In January 2013, he was sentenced to an eight-year term for allegedly “endangering national security” and committing “crimes against the Islamic Republic.”
The real crime
Abedini’s conversion to Christianity apparently represents a threat to Iran’s regime so serious that his arrest is intended as a clear message to other Muslims not to stray from a pre-designated line of thinking.
His case underscores both the iniquity of the Iranian regime and its fundamental weakness. Like any…