Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, was able to address the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time directly on Tuesday, calling on world leaders to stand up for the principles they say they uphold and help her imprisoned husband.
"For nearly a year, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to silence my husband, Saeed Abedini, through illegal imprisonment, torture, and threats against our family. Why is he being held – because he exercised his rights of religious freedom, expression, and peaceful assembly," Naghmeh Abedini began.
"I hope that my presence here today will put a face to those who suffer when a government does not uphold its obligation to protect these freedoms. . . ."
The pastor, who is a U.S. citizen, has been held inside Evin Prison in Tehran since his arrest in September 2012. While the Iranian court convicted him of endangering national security, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing his wife and two children in the U.S, said that the 8-year sentence was more to do with his Christian faith.
Naghmeh Abedini argued before the Council that her husband has broken no law, and that he simply exercised his rights that Iran had said it would uphold. "Iran has kept Saeed imprisoned because he believes that Jesus Christ died on the cross for forgiveness of sin and to reconcile humanity to God," Naghmeh said.
She continued by stating that she does not know whether Abedini will live or die while in prison, and urged the international community to do more on the issue and hold Iran to its promises to respect human right laws regardless of religion, nationality, or ethnic background.
"I call on this body to do more. Each member state here has an obligation, and I respectfully ask that you join me in this fight. Please help bring my husband home to me and our two young kids," Naghmeh added.
The ACLJ said that the unique opportunity Naghmeh had to plead her husband's case before the U.N. cannot be overstated.
"It is impossible to overstate the importance of this unique opportunity for Pastor Saeed's wife to present her husband's case directly to world leaders. They looked her directly in the eyes, heard her pleas and saw her pain. The empathy and compassion of the world could be felt as she delivered her remarks. Her comments were well received by non-governmental organizations as well as member states," wrote Jordan Sekulow, the ACLJ executive director.
Naghmeh Abedini's full statement can be read here.
Late last week, the White House said it is pressing Iran on Abedini's case, calling for him to be given proper medical treatment and to be released from prison, but has said that so far it has received no communication from the predominantly Muslim country.
"We remain deeply concerned about U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini who has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. We can confirm that Mrs. Abedini and her lawyer met with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Eileen Donahoe. We have reached out to numerous international partners to raise awareness of Mr. Abedini's case and to press Iranian officials to provide him medical attention and to release him," the White House said Friday.