Kevin H: The Abedini Tragedy
Let me state right off the bat that I really wish it could all go away.
I wish this topic wouldn’t be a spectacle here, among other places. I wish I wouldn’t be writing about this. I wish Saeed and Naghmeh could address their issues in private and completely out of the public eye. For their own sake, and for the sake of all of us who get drawn into the soap opera, and for their family members and friends, and most especially their children.
The problem is, I believe this story needs to stay public for two reasons.
I’ve expressed this before in comments on this blog and other places, but not in an official article.
First, we all know by now that we were given a false narrative during the large majority of our advocacy for Saeed’s release from Iranian prison. Driven by Naghmeh’s writings and communications, we were regularly told of the pains of Naghmeh and Saeed and their children in their inability to communicate with Saeed. Our hearts were wrenched when we were repeatedly told of the separation of husband and wife in their great love story and the children growing up without ever being able to see or talk to their daddy. We now know by everybody’s admittance of a regularly used cell phone that this part of the story was a sham.
Now, it is understandable that the presence of a cell phone was not publicly made known out of concerns for Saeed’s safety. Although it would seem quite plausible that Iranian leaders were already fully aware of the phone and the conversations taking place on it, there would still be some consideration for keeping quiet about it. It is certainly understandable that Naghmeh would do whatever she thought she had to to get her husband and the father of her children safely home. It does not make it right, but there surely is a serious measure of empathy in such a situation. If I ever were to be in a similar situation, I cannot say for sure what I would do.
Where the rubber hits the road on this false narrative is the role of the American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ). The ACLJ was a main driver in bringing awareness to Saeed’s case and raising funds around it. The ACLJ is to be commended for taking on Saeed’s advocation. The dilemma that comes into play is with the false narrative. The truth of who was the main culprit behind creating, directing, and/or demanding the false narrative, we may never know. At the very least, what we do know is that the public was given the narrative by way of Naghmeh’s writings and communications, some of which were used and highlighted by the ACLJ. For example, see here and here.
Now, I am far from a legal expert so I do not know what all the potential legal and ethical ramifications are or are not in a case like this. But when a big Christian organization knowingly uses false information to help further a cause and raise funding around it, then I have a problem. Even more so if they were the main driver behind the false information. And I think the public should have a problem, too. Especially for those who were led to give to the ACLJ based on the pleas given about Saeed. There needs to be some accountability. How or in what manner, I’m not sure. But I don’t think it is something that we should just act like never happened. The same would apply to any other organization that may have raised funds when knowingly pushing a false narrative.
The second reason I believe the Abedini case unfortunately needs to remain public revolves around the allegations of abuse. I do not want to turn this into a big fight as to who is telling the truth between Naghmeh and Saeed. I have already stated in the comments of this blog that my own personal inclination is to believe Naghmeh. This is my own opinion and I write this at my own volition.
This does not mean I know a lot with certainty or that I believe Naghmeh to be definitively 100% accurate and truthful on all her charges and details. The only thing I know with certainty, because it is officially documented, is that Saeed plead guilty to domestic assault of Naghmeh in an incident that occurred almost nine years ago. Yes, the details of the assault describe a situation not as bad as some assaults can be. But what is described is still completely wrong and Saeed did plead guilty to such. No amount of abuse of any kind is acceptable.
The reason I believe the current charges need to remain public is because of Saeed’s stated desires to write a book and go around the country speaking in churches. I have very little doubt if Naghmeh hadn’t already spoken up that Saeed would already be hot on the church speaking trail all over the nation. He had the makings of the perfect Christian hero and celebrity. He had the right connections in place to make it all happen.
But at the very least, we now know there are serious issues in his marriage and so we know that is where his focus should be. Knowing this much, churches and other Christian organizations should be given to much pause before lining up to have Saeed speak. If Naghmeh had not spoken up, the scenario would be very conceivable where Saeed would have gone full bore on the speaking circuit without ever acknowledging any serious issues in his marriage.
If the allegations of abuse are true, then churches and other Christian organizations should have nothing to do with giving Saeed the pulpit or a platform to speak. Christians would need to really question if they should buy any potential books Saeed would write. The Church would need to know these things so that they would not be giving a position of influence to such a man. Again, if Naghmeh had not spoken up, then the exact opposite would be happening in regards to his speaking and book writing opportunities.
Now, if Naghmeh is lying about these charges, then a great shame on her. If she is making up all these things and destroying this man’s life for whatever sinister reasons, then that is just horrible. She would need to be held to account and should be held liable for his loss of livelihood.
We all know there have been instances of false accusations where innocent men (and women) have been taken down by malevolent reasons and circumstances. We also know there have been plenty of times where abusive men have kept their victims quiet (or unbelieved) and go on to maintain their respected status in society. And far more times than we would like to know where these abusive situations happen in the Church and Christian leadership.
Many times abuse occurs behind closed doors and we never know about it. The fire is hidden and the smoke rarely escapes to be seen. It takes a lot of courage for the abused to speak up. In this case, Naghmeh has drawn our attention to a lot of smoke. Not always, but often times when there is smoke, there is fire. At the very least, we now know there is something acutely wrong. We should proceed with much caution before propping up Saeed as a leader and authoritative figure.
If Naghmeh is speaking the truth about abuse, then it is good and necessary that she has spoken. In most abuse situations, it would be unnecessary to tell the world, nor would the world much care because it would not know who the involved people are. The Abedinis are a different case than most.
I really wish this could all go away from the public arena. I really do.
But for the given reasons of the ACLJ’s complicity in the false narrative and Saeed’s spoken desires to obtain a platform of influence in the Church, it can’t. I wish it weren’t so.