Jailed American pastor pens heartbreaking birthday letter to daughter

By Lisa Daftari Published September 25, 2013

As his wife is in New York to fight for his freedom, a letter American pastor Saeed Abedini recently managed to get out of his Iranian jail cell and to his seven-year-old daughter for her birthday has come to light.

He calls Rebekka his “little hero” and expresses heartbreak about not seeing her grow. Rebekka’s mom, Naghmeh, is unable to travel with their two young kids to Iran for fear she might also be arrested, but with the Iranian delegation in New York for the UN, she is pressing his case. This week, she traveled to New York and was able to hand-deliver a letter Monday to the delegation of Iran’s new president asking for her husband’s quick release.

Abedini, 33, an American citizen who left his wife and children behind in their Boise home to travel to Iran last year, has been held in the notoriously brutal Evin prison for his Christian faith.

“My Beautiful Rebekka, you don’t realize how much I rejoice and weep when I see your pictures behind the glass window when my parents visit me every week in prison,” he wrote.

Rebekka turned seven Sept. 12, making this her second birthday without her father.

“Your hair has grown so long and is such a beautiful black color,” he wrote.

“It is so hard and so heartbreaking for me to see these pictures and to know that I am not there beside you as you grow.”

Last month, an Iranian court rejected an appeal from Abedini and refused to reduce the eight-year prison term his supporters believe is tantamount to a death sentence, according to his family and lawyers.

His supporters say he has been beaten and tortured in the prison, and that he was only in Iran to try to start a secular orphanage.

In language meant for a young child to understand, Abedini tells her daughter that while he is being held and has to be away from her, she is “also facing hardships.”

“I came here to help the kids that did not have mommies and daddies, but my own kids lost their daddy.”

Abedini had been making one of his frequent visits to see his parents and the rest of his family in Iran, his native country, where he spent many years as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts.

On this last trip, the Iranian government pulled him off a bus and said he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.

Thursday is the one-year anniversary of his imprisonment.

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