#IStandwithNaghmeh Franklin Graham Didn’t and Added More Pain to Naghmeh Panahi’s Abuse by Saeed Abedini #ChurchToo

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saeed Abedini, a pastor, was imprisoned in Iran.

According to Wikipedia:

(Saeed Abedini) is an Iranian American Christian pastor who was imprisoned in Iran in 2012 based on allegations that he compromised national security. During his imprisonment, Abedini became internationally known as a victim of religious persecution. Following international pressure, Abedini was released from prison on 16 January 2016 along with other American prisoners.

Amnesty International repeatedly raised the issue of Abedini’s imprisonment, calling him a prisoner of conscience and calling upon Iran to release all those detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.[16][17][better source needed]

In May 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed, 90–0, a resolution calling upon the Iranian government to immediately free Abedini and two other Americans imprisoned in Iran, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian, and to cooperate with the U.S. government to locate and return Robert Levinson, who is missing in the country.[18] The resolution was introduced by Senator James Risch of Idaho, Abedini’s home state.[18]

In March 2015, in a message commemorating the Nowruz (the Persian new year), President Barack Obama listed Abedini, Rezaian, and Hekmati, by name and called for their release.[19] Obama said, “[Abedini] has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.”[19] Obama also met with Naghmeh Abedini during a January 2015 visit to Boise.[19]

Early on, I was supportive of the #FreeSaeed movement. At the time, I was deluded as were many other Christians. My good friend, Phoenix Preacher is an example. Many tweets by others supporting Saeed have since been deleted. None of us knew about the extreme domestic violence that his lovely wife, Nagmeh, had experienced.

Naghmeh was instrumental in speaking out about her imprisoned husband. However, that ended when she spoke out about her abuse. 2/2016, Bob Smietana, for The Washington Post, wrote The strange case of the pastor released from Iran and his wife’s abuse allegations

Naghmeh Abedini rapidly rose to religious freedom superstardom in Christian circles in recent years.

The Boise, Idaho, resident toured the country relentlessly, advocating for release of her husband, Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American pastor imprisoned in an Iranian jail cell.

Along the way, she became the face of the burgeoning religious freedom movement.

Among her high-profile allies: the American Center for Law and Justice, a prominent Christian legal firm; Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; and the Rev. Franklin Graham.

President Obama even visited with Naghmeh last year, promising to work for her husband’s release.

Now that her husband has returned to the United States, the mother of two may be facing an even bigger challenge. She’s trying to rebuild her life after suffering from years of what she says was abuse in her marriage to Saeed.

In fact, that abuse started early in their marriage.

Pastor Saeed Abedini and Naghmeh Were Living Apart Years Before His Iran Arrest

Almost as soon as they got married on June 30, 2004, in Tehran, Iran, persecuted pastor Saeed Abedini and his now ex-wife, Naghmeh Panahi, were traveling a “really rough” road. Within three years of the marriage, according to court files, the Christian couple were already living apart.

According to a copy of the transcript of the couple’s divorce proceeding held at the Ada County Court in Idaho earlier this year and acquired by The Christian Post, Panahi claimed she was abused the first few years of their marriage and feared for her life.

She explained that she was forced to call the police and move in with her parents in 2007 after Abedini allegedly attacked her over a disagreement with his extended family.

by the advice of the police officers and my pastor I was told to go to a safe place. And I went to — that is when I decided to live — leave and stay with my parents,” she said.

He started beating me very badly. I had bumps coming out of my head. Bruises all over. Kicking and hitting, and I thought I was going to die.

…She said her faith and her culture were other reasons why she didn’t walk away from the marriage as soon as trouble started.

Spiritual Sounding Board (Julie Ann Smith) earlier on was instrumental in exposing Nagmeh’s Abuse

Resource Bibliography on the Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini Situation was compiled by Brad Sergeant. In fact, two weeks after The Washington Post article, Julie Ann posted Saeed Abedini and Franklin Graham Promote “Couples Counseling” to Reconcile the Abedinis. Because of Saeed’s Abuse, is This Counterproductive?

A healthy pastor with no vindictive agenda would have briefly said, “Pray for my family.” But instead, Saeed blames his wife under the guise of soliciting prayers for the “marital” problems. For instance, note how he says that “my wife’s relationship with me is not good” – not, “my relationship with my wife is not good” or even “our relationship is not good.” Even from just that one twist of a sentence, how easy is it now for Saeed’s supporters to see Naghmeh as the stumbling block to reconciliation, and certainly not Saeed?

…These words are not words of humility and honesty. They are manipulative words meant to draw people into Saeed’s sad plight. Even if we were to assume that the problem is a marital issue, an honest response would be one where he admits his failures as well. We see none of that.
A husband interested in saving his marriage would never put his wife under the proverbial bus by publicly disclosing her faults … ever

Enter Franklin Graham who featured Nagmeh when she defended her husband but became offensive (in my opinion) when she refused to reconcile with her husband.

As Nagmeh came forward with her abuse, I immediately believed her and began this hashtag #IStandwithNaghmeh. I knew she would be placed under tremendous pressure since Franklin Graham was promoting this situation

Through the years, I wondered what had happened to her. I even sent her a message of support a couple of years after this hit the news. Little did I know that Franklin Graham would heap pain on Nagmeh’s head. Thanks to Julie Roys, we know the rest of the story. Here are the three posted articles. All contain podcasts and videos.

I assure you that this series will sicken you. It sure did me. I tweeted about it although I misspelled Naghmeh’s name.

Naghmeh claims her abuse by Abedini involved sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse. In the podcasts, she describes these in detail. In my opinion, her abuse by a so-called pastor is terrible. Please listen to the podcasts which describe this abuse in graphic detail.

Also, Julie Roys was given emails, audios, etc of her meetings and presents them in these remarkable posts.

Here are some quotes from these articles. They are a must-read if you want to understand how domestic violence is downplayed by Franklin Graham.

…When first contacted by The Roys Report for comment about Panahi’s allegations, Sekulow did not respond. However, when asked specifically if he had pressured Panahi to say she was mentally ill, Sekulow responded through his press agent: “The answer to your question is no. We will have no further comment due to attorney-client confidentiality.”

…(Franklin Graham in a statement to Roys) “While I am not a licensed counselor, I did offer limited counsel—to both Naghmeh and Saeed—as a minister. . . . I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to publicly disclose advice or counsel I may have offered to this couple—other than to say it was always my sincere desire to see Naghmeh and Saeed experience Biblical reconciliation and a God-given restoration to their marriage.”

Naghmeh refused to meet with Abedini for counseling. Franklin Graham responded by sending counselors and others to her. Those of you who contribute to Samaritan’s Purse should see how your funds are being used.

Panahi says Graham urged her to fly to Germany to meet Abedini in route to the United States. Initially, she agreed, but then said she didn’t feel safe and decided against it.

…on January 26, 2016, Graham flies Abedini, Abedini’s parents and sister, two counselors, and a bodyguard on a private jet owned by Samaritan’s Purse to Panahi’s home in Boise, Idaho.

…Who does that when I’ve told Franklin, ‘I’m afraid. Saeed has threatened to take the kids’?” Panahi said. “Who does a surprise with a bodyguard and Saeed and his parents and his sister and the marriage counselors? They show up unannounced on a private jet—like that is traumatic.”

…Panahi said she then informed Graham’s bodyguard that she had obtained a protection order, so Abedini couldn’t take the couple’s children. Panahi was willing, however, to allow Abedini to visit with the children, which he did.

Graham wouldn’t quit. Looks like he needed a bodyguard when he went to these meetings.

Panahi said Graham continued to pressure her to submit to in-person marriage counseling with Abedini.

In February, Panahi said Graham’s marriage counselors, Dan and Linda Stephens, who work with Samaritan’s Purse, flew to Boise to meet with Panahi’s pastor, Bob Caldwell. Panahi said the Stephenses also spoke with Panahi’s abuse counselor, Robert Needham.

In August 2016, Graham called Panahi, and requested an in-person meeting between her, Abedini, and himself. Panahi said she agreed to meet, fearing that if she refused, Graham would paint her in the media as the reason the marriage failed.

So, on August 9, 2016, Graham, Abedini, and Panahi had a meeting at a hotel conference room in Boise, which Panahi recorded. Also at the meeting were Panahi’s pastor, Bob Caldwell, Panahi’s lawyer, and Graham’s bodyguard.

Ann Graham Lotz was contacted by Naghmeh. She supported her. Good for her.

“Franklin does not understand the deep evil that Saeed is dealing with and Saeed’s pretend humility. I spoke with Franklin today and it seems like he believes if the woman loves enough and submits enough things will be fixed. I have learned otherwise. The more I gave in, the more abusive he became.”

Lotz responds the same day: “I totally confirm that you are to stay in Boise, where you have your network of support. You are right, Franklin does not understand. And I can also tell you, Franklin is not a good listener. Just never mind him, if that’s possible.”

Watch Naghmeh speaking with Julie Roys on Your Tube

Part 1

Part 2

Finally, Jimmy Hinton did a great job of interviewing her in this video.

Where is Naghmen now?

Naghmeh Panahi is the Executive Director of Tahrir Alnisa Foundation:

Helping women escape and recover from domestic abuse and religious persecution.

I suggest that people consider donating to this group at Christmas. 😎

Let me end with my opinion of Franklin Graham’s (and Jay Sekulow’s ) actions

There is little question that Naghmeh was abused by her husband. I cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with this. The question in my mind is why did these guys act the way they did to an abused woman? Here is how it appears to me.

  • Saeed got high visibility during his imprisonment.
  • His wife is beautiful as well as an incredibly skilled communicator.

They had a cash cow on their hands. Imagine the conferences? Imagine the proceeds rolling in due to hauling these two around the world, giving talks on unjust imprisonment, especially the unjust imprisonment of a pastor due to his faith. These would include the heart-wrenching tales of a wife and children separated from Saeed. The dollar sign seemed to be front and center. I also wonder if promises were made to some potential donors a priori.

Yes, I know I have written far too much but even that is too little There is much more. Naghmeh is my hero. She stood strong against the unjust pressure applied by Graham (and Sekulow) and spoke out clearly of her abuse by her ex-husband. I believed her back in 2016. I believe her now.

#IStandWith Naghmeh


#IStandwithNaghmeh Franklin Graham Didn’t and Added More Pain to Naghmeh Panahi’s Abuse by Saeed Abedini #ChurchToo — 29 Comments

  1. Have spent several years in the Middle East, you have many different factors playing into domestic abuse including many cultural factors, Franklin Graham was way out of place in dealing with this. In Middle East cultural, the children go ( often) to the husband and their family, hence her fear of losing her children. That is just one difference. He should have left all this alone.

  2. I find it very interesting that Graham brought his “in-house” counselors with him when he wanted the couple to go through marriage counseling. When counselors are “in-house”, they have a conflict of interest in which they can’t speak negatively about the person employing them. In this case, Graham’s the person putting undue pressure on Naghmeh to reconcile AND he’s providing the counselors to facilitate the reconciliation. The counselors can’t provide the type of objective advice that even Graham’s sister could! Anne Graham Lotz basically told Naghmeh Graham doesn’t know what he’s talking about and isn’t the greatest resource in this situation. It was good advice. Could Graham’s counselors have done the same?

    We can apply this dynamic to other situations in which “in-house” counselors are provided to “help” the patient. In another podcast Julie did with Natalie from Flying Free, we see how Bethlehem Baptist brought in their own counselors to fix a problem actually being caused by Bethlehem itself and it’s ignorance of emotional abuse.

    This is, in part, why I have such a problem with “in-house” biblical counseling. The counseling may really just be a way for a church to further control a person and get her to submit to the leader and the doctrine.

    Matthew Remski wrote about this dynamic here in a really insightful article:


  3. My respect for Franklin G. had already nose-dived long before I heard the podcasts with Julie Roys/Naghmeh, but now i have lost all respect for the guy. It’s all about his own name and reputation, not bringing a young mother into a very dangerous situation with a controlling, abusive husband. Many years ago, the worst incident of domestic violence in my childhood home happened after a visit to a marriage counselor (a requirement for divorce in my state at that time). My dad started yelling during the session, and the counselor couldn’t control him. He felt emboldened, and beat my mother to a pulp after he got home. Thankfully, mom went through with the divorce and my dad left the home, but the whole situation was horrendous. Abusers like Saeed need much more help than a sit-down counseling session with the wife.

  4. Linn: Abusers like Saeed need much more help than a sit-down counseling session with the wife.

    Help my a$$, he needs a taste of his own medicine.

  5. My experience with “aggressive evangelicals” (with respect to evangelizing, politics, celebrity status, etc) is that you need to fit into the specific “testimony”… if you vary off it, maybe say that your life is “messy” and you struggle with some things that are not magically wiped away with a prayer, you are seriously scolded and if you do not change your testimony, you are dropped..

    Well, this situation definitely fits the “messy” category….

    I use to think I was just “weird” with respect to my experience with Fundy/Evangelical world… thanks, in part, to TWW, I now realize I am not as “weird” as I thought… I am sure many, many others out there have experienced not “fitting into the little box” that Fundy/Evangelical preacher boys say we should..

  6. Jeffrey Chalmers: I am sure many, many others out there have experienced not “fitting into the little box” that Fundy/Evangelical preacher boys say we should..

    I have some of those t-shirts. So does my wife. I think I might have the PTCD described by Max.

  7. Jeffrey Chalmers: “aggressive evangelicals”

    Slow to listen,fast to speak.

    (Franklin’s sister mentions this, noted in this post.)

    Not weighted down by wisdom, and a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

    Living in the fast lane of talking minus thinking. Which indicates up to no good while going nowhere fast.

  8. I was thinking that this woman really showed compassion toward her husband, she spent a lot of her time working on his behalf to get him released. I remember seeing her on news channels, reading articles and doing interviews, working tirelessly to get his freedom and now we find out that she was already stating that she was being abused before he was arrested in Iran. Now that is exhibiting mercy. She did all this labor with the realization that if he was freed he could return to make her and the children’s lives miserable. May she find peace and happiness. She really deserves an award.

  9. Paul K: Bethlehem Baptist brought in their own counselors to fix a problem actually being caused by Bethlehem

    Note who or whose insurance is paying the counselor. $$$ determines the perspective of the counselor.

  10. Paul K: When counselors are “in-house”, they have a conflict of interest in which they can’t speak negatively about the person employing them.

    Counselors know where their bread is buttered.

  11. I wonder about Graham’s “in-house” counselors………
    Are they “Bible-based” counselors, or are they real, trained, certified abuse counselors???
    Any of y’all wanna guess which way I’d bet?

  12. This is bringing back the memories. I was active on the PhxPreacher website back then, back before his heart problems got more intense, too much for me. He initially ran once a week a post promoting freeing the secret perp. Once he did get released then everything changed as he felt used by Franklin in the whole affair. Then he was covering everything so there is nothing new in this story for me. I read all of this as it was happening years ago.

    One thing that these reports that I have seen have not mentioned was that the Pastor Perp was telling others that he was being tortured inside the prison. When he was released he was taken for a medical exam and they found zero evidence of any of that so the whole thing was a lie meant to stir up people to get him released. This is part of the story along with the abuse of his wife. He is a liar as well. He conned people into speaking up enough to get him released.

  13. Graham, Sekulow, Bakker, Tilton …

    Just a few of the many grifters after gullible Chhistians’ money …

  14. Linn: He felt emboldened, and beat my mother

    I am so very sorry that your mother and your family endured this. Yes, the wrong kind of “help” can put lives in greater danger.

  15. Linn,
    these ‘abusers’ who beat their wives to a pulp are hardly human, much less ‘men’

    at the roots of misogyny there are wannabe ‘strong males’ who mistreat women and find in the picture of themselves kicking and hitting a woman some kind of ‘hubris’ or ‘proof’ of their own sick ‘power’ over their victim(s)

    classic bullies . . . sometimes emotionally and mentally sick, but almost always weak;
    and, all brutality to weaker persons aside, these jerks KNOW only that they feel powerful when beating up on a woman or a child, emotionally but especially physically . . . these ‘men’ belong in jail

    what causes the ‘toxic masculinity’ of an abusive misogynist?
    . . . some deep-seated insecurity about one’s own manhood in the presence of women????

    God have mercy!

  16. Jeffrey Chalmers: “messy”

    But “messy” is the latest designer trophy, which these types have spent a lifetime cultivating, as I noticed some doing from 1986 for 28 years.

    “Sincere” is a word whose time has come.

  17. Ronnie “Armani” Floyd has resigned as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Of course it was an I Am Not To Blame to the very end.

    In a letter released Thursday, Floyd wrote, “I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed on me,” adding that the vote on Oct. 5 placed Southern Baptists into “uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and unchartered waters” that created potential risks to the SBC’s liability.


    I think if Floyd and the law firm believe that by resigning, they’re not going to have to cooperate, I think they’re deceived. It also makes me wonder not what kind of rot is going to be found, but how much, and how deep.

  18. Ava Aaronson: (Franklin’s sister mentions this, noted in this post.)

    She (Graham Lotz) sure did , and even told her (Naghmeh) to pay no attention to Franklin. What’s that tell ya?
    Graham, Sekulow, or which ever big gun you wanna’ reference, care nothing for human need and human flourishing, they only care about the brand name and its ideology.
    Divorce in fundagelicalism is just as much a no no as it is in Roman Catholicism.

  19. Muff Potter: She (Graham Lotz) sure did , and even told her (Naghmeh) to pay no attention to Franklin.What’s that tell ya?
    Graham, Sekulow, or which ever big gun you wanna’ reference, care nothing for human need and human flourishing, they only care about the brand name and its ideology.
    Divorce in fundagelicalism is just as much a no no as it is in Roman Catholicism.

    Well, WADR to my beloved Muff :)… I would respectfully suggest that divorce is actually a no-no for Jesus, too. And no, the so-called Matthean loophole does not obviate this.

    However, be that as it may, the Catholic Church recognizes that physical separation from bed and board is justified in cases of domestic abuse. Abuse victims are not forced to remain with abusers, especially when their lives and/or their children’s lives are in danger. In such cases, they may also get civil divorces.

    *IF* the original marriage was sacramentally valid (big “IF”), then abuse escapees may not marry someone else. But they certainly need not stay in a dangerous, abusive situation.

    In fact, some religious orders have entire ministries to domestic abuse victims. A Sister of Mercy I used to room with (long story) ran a shelter for domestic abuse victims way back in the day.

    I have no idea how this compares with evangelical practice. I honestly have not been informed one way or ‘tother. I assume it would vary from denomination to denomination and even from congregation to congregation. Y’all would know better.

  20. Catholic Gate-Crasher,

    It’s great when the church aids people who are suffering. Long ago I would have agreed with you about lifelong marriage. My family, though, has had physical, emotional, and financial abuse for generations. The church should not help to trap people in bad marriages, whether on paper or in the home.

  21. Michael in UK:
    Nancy2(aka Kevlar),

    Did you notice the amount of adjectives Graham used, starting with “sincere”, why would anyone use that one now?

    “The more adjectives about Democracy in a country’s official name, the nastier a Dictatorship it is.”
    — TV Tropes, “People’s Republic of Tyranny”

  22. Catholic Gate-Crasher,

    I meant NO DISRESPECT whatsoever with my last comment. In fact, some of the best thinkers I’ve ever read were Jesuits.
    I hold to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed as non-negotiables, but beyond that, I have no religion.