Wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, one of the five American prisoners freed by Iran Saturday, advised President Obama to do more for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax Sunday as she prepared to fly to Germany to reunite with her husband after more than three years, Naghmeh Abedini praised the president for the role he played in securing release of her husband and the four other Americans. She also hailed his Christmas statement calling for an end to Christian persecution in the Middle East.
“But he needs to talk about it more and bring more awareness to the issue,” Abedini said. “There has been a policy of trying not to upset Muslims. I was quiet for six months [after Saeed was arrested in 2012], but advocacy is speaking out as well.
“There is also an attempt to get rid of Christians in the Middle East and it is genocide. We should call it what it is. It’s very scary. You’re arrested, you’re imprisoned, and you’re always afraid of this. It isn’t easy to be a Christian in the Middle East. There should be action.”
“He’s got to get more countries to get involved,” she said. “I don’t think there has been a huge focus on the plight of persecuted Christians. There’s a lot more resources and attention that can go to that.”
Abedini also called on countries with businesses engaged with Middle Eastern countries such as Iran to take up the cause of persecuted Christians.
“They’ve lifted up sanctions but there are ways to keep companies from pouring money into countries that deal in the Middle East,” she said.
Recalling a recent trip to Germany where she spoke on the issue, she noted that “Germany is a huge trading partner with Iran. I called on German business leaders to say to countries that persecute Christians: ‘We don’t like this. This is going to affect business. This is going to affect money coming into your country.’
“Money talks. And companies that do business in countries [where Christians are persecuted] can make a demand that ‘we need to see this stopped. Or we might pull out, or pull back in our investments.’
“Money and power can keep these countries accountable.”
Abedini — herself the daughter the Iranian exiles — stopped short of endorsing Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement that went into effect yesterday Iran has become “a country I wouldn’t trust with anything.”
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“It’s a very dark country in terms of its government, not its people,” she said, “I know that the nuclear agreement is intended to work for the benefit of our country and each President has tried to deal with Iran differently. President Obama has tried diplomacy and tried to make a deal. That’s his idea and he’s leading. I’m not the President.
“But it’s a country whose leadership I don’t trust, I don’t like…it’s a country I would never trust with anything.”
She did praise the Obama administration for making possible what she called “the greatest day of my life.”
“They were keeping open communications throughout the years,” said Mrs. Abedini, “The last time I met with President Obama, he said ‘it may take some time but we’ll get [the prisoners] out.’ From there, we had regular updates and contacts with the State Department, with the White House, and with some Cabinet Members. They were very good at making sure we were getting updates.”
As to whether she had advance knowledge that her husband and the others would be released, Mrs. Abedini told us: “We were aware that there were negotiations on the sidelines on trying to get them out and as we got closer to the date yesterday, we had become aware there were talks of a prisoner exchange.”
She emphasized, however, that “I honestly didn’t know because we’d been hearing that for a whole year and so I was thinking ‘is this going to be another two months?’ ‘A year?’ I couldn’t figure out the time.”
Regarding criticism from many American conservatives of the administration agreeing to release seven Iranian felons in return for the freed Americans, Abedini said “I would not have wanted any prisoner exchange. I accepted from Day One I wanted my husband out in good faith.”
But, she told us, “the leadership is in the hands of President Obama and the State Department and I have to be a good citizen and trust that the decisions that are made will be to get back the Americans with the least amount of damage to our security. I’m glad it involved people who broke sanctions laws here and there and not terrorists.”
As Nagmeh Abedini spoke, the administration announced its delegation to travel to Germany next week to welcome the freed Americans. Among those in the delegation will be Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., who has worked to bring attention to the Abedinis and co-hosted a reception for his colleagues to meet Naghmeh Abedini.
“Congressman Pittenger has been a source of amazing, amazing support,” she said.