Disappointed. That’s how Naghmeh Abedini describes finding out the release of her husband was not included in the Iran nuclear deal announced Tuesday.
Her husband, Saeed Abedini, is a pastor from Boise. He has been held in prison in Iran since 2012. He was convicted of undermining state security for forming private Christian churches in homes in Iran, and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Naghmeh says she’s been in touch with the State Department and they will not confirm that his release has been secured.
She wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t part of the main nuclear deal. But she had really hoped there would be an agreement on the sidelines that would have freed her husband.
“It’s been very emotional; it’s been a very hard week,” Naghmeh says. “I’ve been waiting for this deal and then to hear this news has been a really hard blow on me.”
She says it will be harder now and there is less leverage to release Saeed. Her next step is to reach out to Congress, which will review the Iranian deal. She says if Congress signs off on a deal that does not include her husband his chances of freedom will drop.
“I honestly think once a deal is reached and Congress signs it – and Saeed’s release and the other Americans release is not secured – it will be a much harder road to get them home. If Congress does not push for the release of the Americans, that’s the last push and we will lose all leverage [with Iran].”
Naghmeh is worried about her two young children who live in Boise. She says they have had their ups and down while their father has been in jail.
“They’ve missed almost half their lifetime without their father and they’ve gone through a lot of pain, simply because my husband is a Christian,” says Naghmeh.
She describes one Iranian New Year, when they hoped Saeed would be on the list of prisoners to be released for the holiday.
“My kids knew that and they would ask me, 'is he on the list?' And when he wasn’t, they were heartbroken.”
Incidents like that are why Naghmeh has tried to shield her kids. She didn’t tell them that she was hoping their father would be released when a nuclear deal was made.
“I’ve tried to protect them. All they know is that daddy’s in prison and we’re hoping he will come home soon.”
She says she’s tried to be strong and keep her emotions in check to protect her children.
“I’ve had to go to different rooms and express my emotions so they don’t see it...I try to be strong for the kids so they don’t think there’s any bad news and they don’t get anxious.”
Her daughter will turn nine-years-old in a few months.
“She asked, ‘Mommy do you think when I’m nine, daddy will come home?’ and that’s really hard for me. I was hoping I would be able to say yes and he could be home in a few months for her ninth birthday.”
Despite her disappointment, Naghmeh plans to keep fighting for her husband’s release. She’s turning her attention to Congress, where both the House and Senate have passed resolutions calling for the release of all American held in Iran. She hopes they will remember Saeed, and the other American held in Iran, while they consider the nuclear deal.
“It’s heartbreaking if they’re not released and we continue with a deal with Iran.”
Congress has 60 days to vote on the deal. If they vote no, President Barack Obama has said he will veto that vote.
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