An Open Letter to Naghmeh Abedini: Thank You For Speaking Out About Your Abusive Marriage to Saeed

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Dear Naghmeh,

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You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I bet a lot of people feel that way about you. For the past three-and-a-half years we’ve watched you fight tirelessly for your husband Saeed Abedini’s release from an Iranian prison, where he was held for his Christian faith. I’ve seen you give speeches and news interviews, hold your husband’s picture up pleadingly, and give caring, reassuring caresses to your two children. And most notably, I’ve watched you cling fiercely to your own faith, to the God who sees and knows all your pain in the hardest of situations.

Especially the pain you kept hidden from the world.

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Like most of the Christian world, I was shocked last year when I heard you had announced that you’d endured years of abuse from Saeed during your marriage. When someone first told me about it, I thought SURELY it must be a lie made up by enemies of Saeed or anti-Evangelicals. Saeed Abedini? American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his faith? This guy is an American Christian hero! How could he be an abuser to the mother of his children, the woman he is supposed to love as Christ loves the Church? My mind was boggled. It was very hard to believe.

But soon, it was easy to see for myself that these allegations came straight from you. You said yourself in an email to supporters that you had suffered “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography)” from very early on in your marriage and that the pressure to keep silent had become too great. You HAD to tell the truth, even though it meant damaging your husband’s image. Naghmeh, I commend you for knowing that your soul is so much more precious than your husband’s image. Thank you for knowing that. Thank you for seeing your worth as a daughter of the King.

Naghmeh, I was floored when even after this public admission of all that you had gone through, you still fought for your husband’s release from his imprisonment in Iran. And you rejoiced when that miracle finally happened last week and he was freed! As soon as I heard of it, I was joyful, too—so many of us prayed for Saeed’s unjust imprisonment to come to an end—but I also worried for you. What would you do when he came back?  The re-adjustment to family life after a 3.5 year separation is crazy hard for any family to go through for any reason, whether just or unjust, but when you’re now faced with your husband the abuser—who most of the Christian world has on a pedestal—coming back to be near you physically, how are you supposed to feel?

Are you supposed to feel joy and relief that your children have their father back or red hot fear that your life is going to take on a new-yet-old kind of pain?

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Naghmeh,  your answer to these questions on your Facebook page this week touched me so deeply. You see, while praying for Saeed to be released these last few months since you went public with the abuse, I’ve been rooting for you—and now I want to thank you for being a woman of valor.  THANK YOU for being honest. THANK YOU for being REAL. THANK YOU for giving a voice to women who are married to powerful men in ministry, but who are silent victims of their hidden sin. THANK YOU for seeking and championing a marriage that follows after God’s design. THANK YOU for being firm in protecting yourself and your children while still extending kindness to your husband. It boggles my mind that a woman who has endured years of secret abuse can now say of her abuser:

“I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed. Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.”

But also Naghmeh, THANK YOU for setting boundaries. THANK YOU for telling women that this kind of behavior in men is NOT ok. THANK YOU for actively seeking treatment and restoration while not opening yourself up to further abuse. And THANK YOU for saying out loud that healing requires WORK:

“I long more than anyone for reconciliation for our family and to be united as a family. Since Saeed’s freedom I have wanted nothing more than to run to him and welcome him home. It is something I dreamed about the last 3.5 years. But unfortunately things did not work out that way and our family has to work through reconciliation. I want our reconciliation to be strictly based on God’s Word. I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse. Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage. In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing. I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved. I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.”

THANK YOU for protecting your children. THANK YOU For telling the Christian community that marriage is WORTH the fight. THANK YOU for believing in miracles.

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Naghmeh, surely there are hundreds of Christian women in your stead today. The difference is, they don’t have to live life on the public stage like you do. Even if they tell someone about their husband’s abuse, about their shame and despair, it won’t be front-page news. Your honesty about your imperfect, troubled marriage, your shame, and your abuse has surely freed scores of other women to understand that they don’t deserve to be abused. That they don’t have to go on like this. That God wants MORE for them. By speaking out, you are building up. 

The fact that you are doing it without a hint of malice toward Saeed, without reviling, name-calling, or hatred, surely shows what a strong hold the God of Miracles has on your heart.

From one wife and mom to another, thank you, Naghmeh Abedeeni. I pray for you, your family, and your marriage daily, and I can’t wait to see how God will be glorified from these ashes.

With much love and prayer,

Jenny


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.