The wife of imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini has said she is "heartbroken" by President Obama's failure to keep his promise not to forget her husband during the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States, which lifts economic sanctions from the Islamic Republic.
"When I realized the release was not secured, it was heartbreaking for me," Naghmeh Abedini said Wednesday during an appearance on Herald Radio. "I knew they were talking about Saeed and the other Americans on the sidelines and I had hopes their release would have been secured on the sidelines before walking away with a deal."
Pastor Saeed, who is serving an eight year prison sentence for "threatening the security of the state," was first arrested in 2009. At the time of his arrest, he working as a Christian leader and community organizer in Iran's underground home church communities for Christian converts who are denied the right to worship freely in public churches. Although he was initially released after pledging to stop formally organizing house churches in Iran, Pastor Saeed was imprisoned again after returning to Iran in 2012 to help build a state-run, secular orphanage.
While he was officially charged with undermining national security, supporters have said his arrest is due to his conversion to and practicing of Christianity.
Back in January, Obama met Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and the couple's two young children in Boise, Idaho, and promised that the pastor's release will be a top priority issue for him. Despite the president's promise, it was confirmed on Tuesday that Abedini's was not secured as part of the nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major world powers, including the U.S.
Speaking on Herald Radio, his wife said the most difficult part of learning he would not be released after the deal is shielding her emotions from the couple's two young children.
"When we met with the president my son asked him whether he could help bring his daddy home for his birthday, which was in March," she said. "They miss their father's voice, what he looks like, everything about them. When they say 'mommy, we are forgetting his voice,' I go on the other room and just cry. I don't let them see the emotions. I try to be strong for them."
While the pastor has suffered long stints in solitary confinement, beatings and torture at the hands of his jailers and fellow inmates, his wife said such torture pales in comparison to seeing pictures of his children without their father at home.
"He breaks down when he sees pictures of the kids growing up, that's the biggest torture for him," she said, asking U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remember his own family when working for her husband's freedom.
"I really want him to think about what if he was sitting across the table from the people holding his family hostage, knowing his family and his kids were hurting," she said. "That's what I told the president when I met him. I want them to consider their own families and bring my husband home immediately."
Abedini said officials have told her they are continuing to work to secure her husband's release. She revealed that she is now preparing to make an appeal to Congress, as both the House and the Senate have unanimously approved resolutions calling for the release of the hostages.
"I ask the Congress, as they are looking over the deal, that they make sure Saeed and the other Americans are not left behind," she said.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is supporting the Abedini family, on Tuesday slammed the nuclear deal as "unconscionable" because of its failure to secure Saeed's release.
"It is unconscionable that the Obama Administration would sign a deal with Iran without securing the freedom of Pastor Saeed who has been imprisoned for nearly three years simply because of his Christian faith," a statement from the ACLJ's chief counsel Jay Sekulow said.
"President Obama told the Abedini family face-to-face that he considered the release of Pastor Saeed a 'top priority.' How could that be a "top priority" when a deal is reached and Pastor Saeed is left behind? What happened today makes a bad deal even worse. We will now focus our attention on convincing Congress to reject this deal."
The ACLJ has launched a new petition calling on Congress to reject the deal and make sure that Abedini and the three other imprisoned Americans in Iran are not left behind.
"He promised to make pastor Saeed's release a 'top priority.' Instead, this U.S. citizen is left to suffer beatings, torment, and excruciating pain in one of the world's worst prisons because he is a Christian," the petition states.
"The administration has committed diplomatic malpractice."