Thursday, December 12, 2013

#SAVESAEED: A Story Of Pastor Saeed’s Persecution

Pastor Saeed's two kids


I recently came across the story of Pastor Saaed on Twitter when some people I follow tweeted the #savesaeed hashtag. I then decided to do a little research and found out this story of shameless persecution by the Iranian government.

In a nutshell, Pastor Saeed is an American Pastor who is serving an 8 year sentence in one of Iran's toughest prisons simply for sharing his Christian faith.

He is a 33-year-old Pastor, father, and husband from Idaho. A former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000. While Christianity is recognized as a minority religion under the Iranian constitution, Muslim converts to Christianity suffer discrimination at the hands of Iranian authorities.

On 28 July 2012, during a visit to Tehran to visit family and to finalize the board members for an orphanage he was building in Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard detained Saeed, asserting that he must face criminal charges for his Christian faith. After intense interrogations, Saeed was placed under house arrest and told to wait for a court summons. On 26 September 2012, instead of receiving a summons telling him where to appear, five members of the Revolutionary Guard raided Saeed’s parents’ home in Tehran, confiscated many of Saeed’s belongings, and took him to an unknown location. After four days the Revolutionary Guard informed the family that Saeed was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison.

Saeed remained in solitary confinement for approximately four weeks before he was moved to Evin Prison. During solitary confinement, Saeed was only brought out of his small, dark cell to be subjected to abusive interrogations.

Saeed had been denied medical treatment for infections that resulted from beatings. The ward doctor and nurse refused to treat him because, as a Christian, he was considered “unclean” and an infidel. Saeed’s family in Tehran may visit Saeed on Mondays, but he is not permitted to make phone calls, cutting him off from his wife and two young children in the U.S.

In late February it became known that Saeed was suffering from internal bleeding, an injury from beatings he endured during interrogations. Doctors examined Saeed in early March and determined that his injuries warranted immediate attention, and, in their medical opinion, he needed to be treated in a non-prison hospital. For a month, the Iranian regime ignored this advice. 

In an attempt to appease international pressure, on 8 April 2013, the Saeed was taken to a private hospital. Before doing so, guards forced Saeed to change his prison uniform to that of a murderer. Saeed resisted, the guards beat him, and forced him to wear the uniform. When Saeed arrived at the hospital he was never admitted or treated because, according to the guards, the doctor on staff was not present. Saeed has reported that several cellmates, who appear to be connected to the Iranian intelligence police, have threatened to suffocate Saeed while he sleeps.

Recently, Saeed’s condition became even more serious. Having been denied medical attention, he was thrown into solitary confinement. Beforehand, Saeed complained of kidney pain. He and the several other prisoners wrote a letter to prison officials in peaceful protest of lack of access to medical attention. In response, Iranian officials placed ten prisoners under solitary confinement, Saeed among them. Last time he was in solitary confinement, his medical condition substantially worsened. There is no reason to believe this time will be different. Saeed is now cut off from any visitation. Despite his condition, prison inmates continue to maltreat Saeed and there has been several reports of how he has been robbed at knifepoint.

To make things worse or to add salt to injury, the American government has shown its lack of interest for the securing of Saeed’s releasing a top Iranian scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi, who had been arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire equipment that could be used for Iran’s military-nuclear programs without negotiating an exchange with Saeed.

A petition had been started in Saeed’s name last year, and it quickly received overwhelming media attention. Multiple nations have called for Saeed's release, and ACLJ attorneys have argued his case before the United Nations. Saeed’s petition has over 610,000 signatures and a letter writing campaign to encourage Saeed has garnered over 50,000 letters. Artists such as Toby Mac, Michael W Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mercy Me, Skillet, Relient K, and Audio Adrenaline have been involved, and lent their voices to raise awareness.

But there is still much to be done. Keep up with Saeed's story through the Be Heard Project. Share his story on social media using #SaveSaeed and #BeHeard. You can also Like the Facebook page Save Saeed to follow on the progress and follow them on twitter @SaveSaeed

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