Seeking the Truth about the Saeed Abedini Story: Part 1

***


Administrative note:
Michael Newnham has given me permission to cross-post his article from Phoenix Preacher blog. We have both spent countless hours investigating, talking with people, gathering source documentation, first separately, and then when we realized we were uncovering similar information, made the decision to work on this as a team.

As a personal note, I have such great respect for Michael. He led the way on social media reminding everyone each week to pray for Saeed and his family, petitioning God for Saeed’s release from Iranian prison. When news came of Saeed’s release and there were allegations of domestic violence, etc, he was quite shocked. It took quite a bit for Michael to even consider that what we had been told by ministries and leaders that perhaps all was not as presented. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with a man who has much integrity and wants the church to remain true and set apart in this dying world. ~Julie Anne


Seeking the Truth about the Saeed Abedini Story: Part 1

by Michael Newnham

1This is Part 1 of a multi part series that will explore the situation around Saeed Abedini, his imprisonment, and his actions before and after his captivity.

When Saeed Abedini was imprisoned in Iran in the summer of 2012, the church here and abroad set about to free him with one of the biggest campaigns in recent memory.

Abedini was presented to us as an innocent missionary, a man of God imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ.

He was held in horrible conditions we were told, tortured and beaten, often at the edge of death.

The church mobilized as rarely before as organizations like the American Center For Law and Justice, men like Franklin Graham, and hundreds of churches and individuals took up the cause.

Millions of dollars were raised, millions of words written and messages sent to free Abedini before it was too late.

The more we learn, the more we call into question the truth of the narrative we were fed.

According to an Iranian publication these pictures were taken in the prison Abedini was in from November 2013 on.

saeed-in-prison-1

saeed-in-prison-2

saeed-in-prison-3

When I asked Abedini about these photos, he declined to comment.

Others were told that it was a trick perpetrated by the Iranian government to make it appear that he was fine.

When I personally asked him during a phone interview whether he was beaten and tortured as we were told, he continually reiterated that it had been for the first six months.

That brings into question what was going on in the two years after that.

Many of us were astonished by the fact that Saeed Abedini looked rather fit when he arrived back in the U.S.

We were further astonished to hear that Abedini had a cell phone and was able to not only communicate with his family, but to watch movies and surf the net.

These pictures may explain how that was the case….

These same pictures appeared on Naghmeh Abedini’s wall and then disappeared.

Sources tell us that she was allegedly ordered to do so by the ACLJ.

The question before the house is this…

Were Franklin Graham, the ACLJ, and Naghmeh Abedini aware of and exaggerating the truth of Abedini’s captivity?

Two years ago, the ACLJ published this;

“Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison.  There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives.  Pastor Saeed’s “cell” is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners – murderers and rapists – unfettered access to him 24 hours a day.

He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.

As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed’s health has quickly deteriorated.

The pain in his stomach has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys.  As a result of repeated beatings in Evin prison, Pastor Saeed suffered from internal bleeding.  After months of being refused medical care, Pastor Saeed was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year.  As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided.  However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication and his condition is worsening.

He is being refused medication, prescribed by Iranian doctors, for injuries he sustained from prison beatings.  This is one of the most deplorable human rights violations imaginable.

To make matters worse, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to his body being covered head to toe in lice.  Because of the lice and increased pain, Pastor Saeed has been having trouble sleeping.  He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections.  There is no medication to stop the infections.  He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.

His family reports that Pastor Saeed has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.

The conditions he faces are unfathomable.  He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis.

…The time is now to pressure Iran for his release.  Each day could be his last.”

Were the conditions of his captivity continually exaggerated to keep attention on his plight?

Some sources say yes… and that Naghmeh Abedini was allegedly instructed by others to lie about them when she had questions herself..

We received this statement from Mrs Abedini’s representative;

“During her husband’s imprisonment, Mrs. Abedini’s driving concern was always the safety of her husband and she followed the advice of the counsellors that were helping her achieve that end. Her information regarding Saeed’s prison experience came directly from him and those who visited him, and when they were able to be in contact, he actively directed her in what he expected her to do.

Now that Saeed has been released, she is praying for the restoration of her family”

Let me be clear…any imprisonment is painful and difficult.

However, the public would have interceded without any embellishment of the facts.

It is purported that Abedini’s situation was a cash cow for both Graham and the ACLJ, as well as a political tool for those hoping to stop the Iranian nuclear deal proposed by President Obama.

Framing his captivity in the direst possible way would have enabled the donations to keep flowing and kept the story on the front burner of American media.

Thus, the public in general (and the church in particular) were possibly subject to, if not outright fraud, gross misinformation.

Today, Saeed Abedini will speak at your gathering…for a reported 7500.00…using the old narrative.

If this narrative is a mixture of fact and fiction, it was mainly propagated by Naghmeh Abedini who tirelessly traveled the world to advocate for her husbands release.

While I believe she is complicit in whatever untruths were spread, I also believe that she was quite possibly a victim of powerful men, especially her husband.

It was that abuse that she said caused her to cease her advocacy and that we will examine more closely in the second part of this series.

phoenixpreacher@gmail.com

32 comments on “Seeking the Truth about the Saeed Abedini Story: Part 1

  1. The way the Graham’s and ACLJ raised funds using computerized letters and phone solicitations after capturing your contact information by giving something away or asking you to sign a petition always seemed suspect to me. Then you hear about the salaries and how some (many) have become rich from donations makes you think they are not serving the body but themselves. Don’t they fear God at all?

    Jesus didn’t say I will build my para-church but did say “I he will build my church”.

    IMO, beware the para-church and many who claim to be a church.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, if I could only say what is brewing inside of me after reading this. I will edit myself. If this is true, it is horrid, deceptive, and pure freaking manipulation to milk people of their hard earned income. I was once a trusting sheep who didn’t think for myself, so I have mercy on ppl who support this BS.

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  3. The difficult thing about this situation is that the media was fed information primarily from Graham and ACLJ. Why would anyone have just cause to doubt their integrity?

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  4. I felt doubtful when I saw the fundraising efforts. The Abedini family needed some support, but in a case where someone is imprisoned or even kidnapped, it isn’t money that will help – since paying bribes to officials or ransoms to kidnappers only endangers others – but negotiations, and it is best to have diplomats and professional negotiators to do that. The Abedini case was used as a political flash point, with Republican politicians taking up the cudgels, and every time the President apparently failed to talk to Iranian officials about freeing Saeed, much was made of the President’s failure to advocate for persecuted Christians. In the end, it was government to government talks which freed Saeed, and little thanks they got for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the reasons I have issues with Liberty U is they had Saeed speak despite the public disclosure of domestic abuse. I want to know how much they paid him to speak. I also want to know where all the money raised for him went. The evangelical machine in this country is becoming reminiscent of the Medici papacy, and that’s not a compliment.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “The difficult thing about this situation is that the media was fed information primarily from Graham and ACLJ. Why would anyone have just cause to doubt their integrity?”

    Why, indeed? But we were naive. Never again. I will look with cynicism on all similar claims in the future, thanks to them.

    “The evangelical machine in this country is becoming reminiscent of the Medici papacy, and that’s not a compliment.”

    Amen! Evangelical “leadership” have given themselves over to the pursuit of power. I guess “the meek shall inherit the earth” doesn’t mean much to them, does it?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do not know what to make of the pictures. They almost come off like a men’s Fellowship group. Perhaps it was a political prisoner fellowship group. :o)

    I clicked on the website where the pictures came from. Of course I cannot read the language but I was wondering if the website is published by the prison?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. From Newham’s post

    It is purported that Abedini’s situation was a cash cow for both Graham and the ACLJ, as well as a political tool for those hoping to stop the Iranian nuclear deal proposed by President Obama.

    Makes my blood boil. Melody is right about the Evangelical machine in this country. A better name may be the Christian Industrial Complex. There is nothing to salvage in American Evangelicalism. Burn it down.

    If Abedini wasn’t imprisoned and tortured because of his faith as we were led to believe, what exactly was the Iranian government doing with him?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I would just leave it all alone. We don’t know the truth. We may never know the truth… Why not leave it to the one who knows all and judges righteous judgment? We are told not to be busybodies in other people’s affairs. If he lied, he will answer for it. If he or someone else defrauded other people, he will definitely answer. We are, actually, told to let other people defraud us as opposed to taking them to court and have them judged/prosecuted. Jesus shows the right way of dealing with problems.

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  10. The phrase “follow the money” keeps coming into my head.


    (Weimar sleaze factor deliberate)

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  11. @VoiceOfReason.
    I wondered how long before Franklin & Saeed’s sock puppet Truth Squad would show up.

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  12. As an Iranian believer who is active in Iran and abroad since 1983, I have to say that western believers have been manipulated by many so-called believers who are not reliable members of Christian community in Iran. Instead of going to well known churches, and servants of God, you communicate to individuals whom you don’t know at all. What this individuals are seeking is just money. While true Christians are suffering and never asking for money, you give the donations to money-sucking individuals who play a role to you as a persecuted believer. Whenever western believers were coming to my home and asking what we need, I always told them: “We need prayers, and books!” That’s it. If I am a believer who is seeking God’s protection and blessings, I would never ask for money! So does my other true brothers and sisters. We never ask for money. But, instead of trusting a true Christian Iranian, you just keep employing those who are looking for money not God’s blessings.
    Whose fault is that? Before, western churches pour their money into Iranian Church and spoil it, we had a beautiful, true brethren love. When your money came, it just destroyed this spiritual beauty and cornered true believers into solidarity and opened the field for those who are money seekers not God seekers. What can I add? Please be awake and see that the power of the Spirit of God is a spiritual power fueled by prayers not money.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. @Voice of Reason

    As long as prominent Christians such as Franklin Graham and organizations like ACLJ foist false and self-serving narratives on the public, there is going to be pushback. They should not go on like this unchecked.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “I would just leave it all alone. We don’t know the truth. We may never know the truth… Why not leave it to the one who knows all and judges righteous judgment? We are told not to be busybodies in other people’s affairs”

    Oh dear. Church lady is here. Never mind there was an intense campaign to make it our business. But that was when they wanted money so that part is ok.

    .” If he lied, he will answer for it. If he or someone else defrauded other people, he will definitely answer”

    In other words God does not want us to seek truth. Brilliant! More deterministic God stuff. It is everywhere.

    “We are, actually, told to let other people defraud us as opposed to taking them to court and have them judged/prosecuted. Jesus shows the right way of dealing with problems.”

    I think you have missed a part of the teaching: trivial matters.

    Jesus does not want us to expose deeds of darkness? The defrauders, abusers and predators thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Some questions beg an answer, particularly when the original story line from which everyone was operating was presented as a crisis where a godly man’s life hung in the balance. As believers, we believed what we were told and sought to come together to pray and offer financial assistance to accomplish a desired end that would rescue a suffering man and glorify God. There is every reason to take a second look at the people behind the publicity when new evidence reveals that we may have been misled and/or manipulated.

    I appreciate Julie Anne and Mr. Newnham for their research. I don’t get the impression that they are are on a witch hunt, but rather a hunt for the truth. I know it can be messy and at times disillusioning work. I appreciate having the opportunity to thank them both for the investment of their time and energy so that we might know the truth about the people behind the plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What Narges says is true, and it goes beyond the church in Iran. In my travels, I met missionaries who had lived and worked in West Africa, and they were horrified to witness the bitter feuds between national churches due to the money that some had or had not received from Western churches – the pastors were measuring their success by the support they received, not from their congregations, but from the West. Support from wealthy church patrons has promoted the rise of the prosperity gospel in developing countries. Churches in the West do not really know what is needed. With exchange rates and lower costs of living, a hundred American dollars can become a small fortune. I’ve witnessed how handling so much money can prove too much of a temptation for a Christian who has lived with far less than even the poorest in the West (the poor in the West do not still draw water from the well or cook over open fires). Western Christians’ first thought when they hear of a need should not be, “How much money can I send?”, but, “How much time can I spend?”, whether in prayer or, if it will help, in going to serve.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. JA, I guess, I forgot the part about exposing the works of darkness. Yep… It’s there…No question. I can see now how easy it is to become one sided. Nevertheless, love covers multitude of sins.

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  18. VOR, one thing I think about is, will the covering of one sin result in a sin against someone else? In this case, I think, yes.

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  19. I think it’s more important to expose the sins of the powerful and influential than those of the powerless. It seems to me that American Christian culture always sides against the underdog (poor women with unwanted pregnancies, Muslims, LGBT, victims of police brutality, blacks during the civil rights era, prisoners, Palestinians, etc.).

    This is not to say the underdog is already right. But I find the pattern of consistently siding against the underdog on virtually every issue quite striking. Jesus always sided with the underdog. The Good Samaritan story is a perfect example. He picked a member of a despised minority group as the hero of the story while depicting a priest and a Levite as spineless weasels. He might as well signed his own death warrant.

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  20. I think the verse about love covering a multitude of sins is speaking about interpersonal relationships and the kind of minor infractions that are part of life. Not abuse and especially not abuse in an official capacity.

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  21. I agree 100% with what Shy1 said. Love covers minor sins that everyone does. We all say things at times and we are sorry for. We forgive and forget those things easily with those we love. We do not put a black vale over those things that influential ‘c’hristians are doing and saying to keep their bank role going. We should not turn a blind eye to public sins. I have a friend who says frequently, “If you aren’t willing to shout it from the court house steps, we better not do it.” The funny thing is…..he is not a believer, but has more moral compass than a lot of people calling themselves ‘c’hristians.

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  22. I was gonna say the same thing as Lydia. It seems unusual for photos to be taken in a prison, let alone released to the Internet.

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  23. It’s interesting. If the translation of the text of the publication where those photos are located is to be trusted – the publicist is also outraged. They are aware of the lies being spread about the conditions of their prisoners and have posted these photos as proof otherwise to refute these claims. They specifically identify Saeed in two of the photos.

    Here is how Google translated the text:

    Title: “The situation of prisoners in Rajai-Shahr, from reality to claim”

    Body: “Contrary to media Jvsazyhay dissident and human rights claim over the security situation and convicted prisoners, photo released by the respective one of the so-called NGO but is indicative of the situation.

    According to the Institute of Strategic Watch, the Western media and particularly Persian-language networks, their affiliated Islamic Republic of Iran has always tried to accuse of human rights violations in various fields. One of the main weapon Jvsazyhay their various enemies on the status of the prisoners. Rvanyhay operations Nvbhnvy the media and security Zndnyan shed tears Tmsahhayy is one of the scenarios are repeated cyberspace and satellite.

    Contrary to media Jvsazyhay dissident and human rights claim over the security situation and convicted prisoners, photo released by the respective one of the so-called NGO but is indicative of the situation.

    The most recently published photos taken from Yalda Night Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, all kinds of security prisoners from the West to the church Salafi terrorists and royalists seen troublemaker.

    Ironically, in these images, but neither a food strike, austerity, harsh prison conditions, psychological and physical torture! Human rights absurd scenarios with the movement against the Islamic system is a disgrace.

    Finally, some of the images we learn more about the depth of stupidity enemies of the Islamic Republic of Bob “may not be the enemy of God” to identify further help our enemies.”

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  24. Here’s what everything looks like to me:
    1) Saeed went to Iran for whatever reason.
    2) He ended up pissing off the Ayatollahs (not difficult to do) and got jugged. They may have treated him better than usual for their own PR purposes.
    3) Back home, he became a moneyraising Cause du Jour with the Christianese Culture War set. (“WE HAVE A MARTYR!”)
    4) In the process, it was necessary to whitewash his Dark Side. (The Tithes Must Flow…)
    5) This whitewash continued after his release and return to the States — “WE HAVE A CELEBRITY!” Now for the speaking tours, speaking fees, and fundraisers for The Cause.
    6) And his Widdle Christianese Wifey wouldn’t get with the program, inconveniently leaving him and going public with the truth about his Dark Side instead of Submitting and Staying Sweet.

    Funny about Plaster Saint Martyr Celebrities — the real person rarely matches the Plaster Saint PR. In this case, we have dueling PR spins — first the Islamic Republic Establishment, then the Christianese Culture War Establishment. And Truth becomes the first casualty of any War. Except for Naghmeh, and she gets piled on for not Going With The Program.

    Liked by 2 people

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