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An Open Letter to President Obama: Do the Right Thing -- Make That Phone Call


Five hundred days of silence for the wife of a Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Sandra Fluke, waves at a campaign in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP)

Dear Mr. President,

It’s been 18 months since Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, was detained and held in Iran on what everyone essentially agrees were bogus charges.

Today, he continues to languish in harsh prisons where he has reportedly suffered painful beatings and remains isolated from his wife and children thousands of miles away from his home in Idaho.

His only crime? Being a Christian who visited a country ruled by radicals.

During the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, after months of silence on the matter, you finally publically called for Iran to release Pastor Saeed. Better late than never I suppose, but many questions still remain.

Pastor Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ) Pastor Saeed Abedini (Image source: ACLJ)

To begin: What took so long? Now, to be fair, there are likely many elements of the Iran-U.S. crisis that the public does not and cannot know.

If your reasons for holding back on public proclamations about Pastor Saeed were truly strategic, then it might be understandable why you weren’t so vocal (that said, why his release wasn’t made a condition before delving into negotiations with the Middle Eastern country is questionable).

But that’s not the biggest issue. What I really don’t understand is why, to this day, Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, has not heard from you, nor has she received a phone call or inquiry from any prominent U.S. official.

[sharequote align="center"]Eighteen months, more than 500 days, and no call.[/sharequote]

Eighteen months, more than 500 days, and no call -- not even a quick check-in -- to let Naghmeh know that her government is there for her, behind her and actively working for her husband’s release.

This question wouldn’t be so burning if not for your history of directly reaching out to public figures and embattled citizens who typically align with your political leanings.

Forgive me, but if I recall you phoned Sandra Fluke, a law student who vocally pushed for no-cost contraception, after she was attacked over her stance. Of the conversation you had, Fluke said, “He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women.”

Why not encourage and support Naghmeh, a mother of two small children, who has virtually been abandoned to fight for her husband’s freedom on her own?

Then there’s Jason Collins, an NBA player who came out as gay last year. In this case, too, you wasted no time in picking up the phone to call the player and tell him you “couldn’t be prouder” of his openness on the matter.

Collins, along with two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, was even invited to the State of the Union this year as a guest of your wife, Michelle.

Naghmeh, of course, was not included on the guest list.

My point here isn’t that you’re wrong to have called Fluke or Collins, as you have every right to phone whomever you wish. But what I can’t grasp for the life of me is why Naghmeh – a woman who is publicly facing unimaginable pain and suffering – has been so coldly ignored.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Sandra Fluke, waves at a campaign in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP) President Barack Obama, accompanied by Sandra Fluke, waves at a campaign in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP)

Somehow there is time to comfort a woman who was teased for her stance on contraception and to congratulate an NBA player for announcing his sexuality, but no time to offer a glimmer of comfort and compassion to a woman whose husband’s life hangs in the balance.

I’ve spoken with Naghmeh numerous times. Yesterday, in fact, she told me that she was delighted you used the National Prayer Breakfast to finally break your silence about her husband’s plight, but she said that you and other high-ranking officials have still made no efforts to reach her.

We’ve heard many compelling lectures from you about the importance of showing compassion to one’s fellow man, but putting words to that action is key.

Mr. President, I beg of you: Pick up the phone. Make that call. Give Naghmeh and her family the same comfort you afforded Fluke and Collins. It’s long overdue.


Billy Hallowell

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