Wife Of U.S. Pastor Jailed in Iran Says Obama's Never Called Her

Penny Starr | September 30, 2014 | 8:29pm EDT
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Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American Pastor Saeed Abedini who has been jailed in Iran for two years, spoke at the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 27, 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of American pastor Saeed Abedini who has been jailed for two years in Iran for his Christian faith, says she has yet to receive a phone call from either President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I feel like he’s been abandoned by my government,” Naghmeh said at the Values Voters Summit gala on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

“I hope to meet Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama but I haven’t even received a call to say ‘We’re with you, this is an important issue to us.’ And that breaks my heart.”

The gala was the culmination of the Family Research Council’s summit, which saw conservative attendees vote in a poll that religious liberty was the most important issue facing the country today.

Abedini was jailed in 2012 for proselytizing his Christian faith. He was arrested during a family visit, convicted on charges of “crimes against national security,” and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.

Naghmeh showed a video which she said her children, Jacob, 6, and Rebekka, 8, had made in an appeal for the president’s help.

“My kids made a video plea to President Obama to help bring their daddy home,” Naghmeh said. “I think you need to hear from my kids.”

In the video, Rebekka says in a trembling voice: “I pray that he’ll come back home but he’s still not back.”

Although the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, Kerry meet with his Iranian counterpart at the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York earlier this month to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It is not known whether he brought up Abedini’s plight at that meeting. A senior administration official briefing reporters on background on Friday said that “we have discussed the American citizens” – a reference to Abedini and several others – during various mainly nuclear-related meetings with the Iranians in New York.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, his wife Naghmeh, and the couple's two children before his arrest in Iran. (Naghmeh Abedini)

On Aug. 29, Kerry issued a statement that asked “respectfully” for the Iranian government to release Abedini and other jailed or missing Americans.

“The United States respectfully calls on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian to their families and work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson and bring him home,” Kerry said.

Rezaian is an American-Iranian Washington Post correspondent detained last July, while Hekmati is a former U.S. Marine being detained on what the administration says are as “false espionage charges.”

Bob Levinson, a retired FBI agent, went missing in Iran in March 2007 and is the subject of a $1 million FBI reward offered for information leading to his safe recovery and return home.

The last time Obama spoke publically about Abedini was at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, when he said the pastor had “been held in Iran for more than 18 months, sentenced to eight years in prison on charges relating to his Christian beliefs.”

“And as we continue to work for his freedom, today, again, we call on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini so he can return to the loving arms of his wife and children in Idaho,” he said.

Making personal contact by phone with individuals is not unusual for the president.

Last August, for instance, the Chicago Tribune reported that Obama called members of the Jackie Robinson West Team after its loss to South Korea in the Little League World Series.

In 2012 after college student Sandra Fluke was challenged by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for her claims that all women need access to birth control, Obama called her “to make sure that I was OK,” Fluke said afterwards.

Naghmeh said at the gala that the past two years had been “a real emotional journey.”

“But as I always tell the kids, I’m proud of Saeed for standing up for his faith in the face of torture and beatings in one of the worse prisons in the world,” she said. “As I tell my kids, Jesus is worth it. He’s so real. He’s worth paying the cost of following him.”

“I pray and hope that one day people I love in the Middle East can have the freedom to choose their own religion without fear of death or persecution,” she added, asking people to continue to pray for her family.

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