Here is an another update on Naghmeh Panahi (Abedini). It has been over a year and a half since I first began writing about her, and eight months since my last update: Naghmeh Abedini One Year Later.
Naghmeh gave me full permission to post a letter she wrote. She’s in a place where she is growing closer to Jesus; where He will redeem the lost years and heal her heart, soul, mind and strength. I bring people like Naghmeh to my readers who feel alone, broken, and hopeless in their abusive marriage. I want to validate them, tell them they’re not crazy, they are not weak. Actually, they’re stong to have endured for so long. I want to point them to True Hope: Jesus. He can and will do the impossible to care for them and protect them. Women need to understand that divorce is an option; it is a gift from our good, gift giving Heavenly Father for times such as these.
I wrote about Naghmeh’s revelation of marital abuse in a high profile case involving her then imprisoned husband, Iranian, American Saeed Abedini in the Iranian prison system. Read more about this here: Naghmeh Abedini’s Leaked Letter.
It turns out Saeed ordered his certificate to be a pastor over the internet. This coupled with his abusive treatment of his wife and family; along with, the extreme verbal abuse many who advocated for him during his imprisonment received from Saeed does not qualify him to be a pastor.
Many in the Christian community didn’t believe Naghmeh even though she had legal evidence: She Said He Said: Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini. For some who did believe; they still said derogatory things about her for speaking out against her husband. How dare she say something bad about him; especially considering what he had been enduring in prison!
I understand much of what Naghmeh shares in the below letter because I had some of the same thoughts when I was in a difficult and abusive marriage; knowing that good wives don’t tell, especially good Christian wives. I briefly wrote about my journey here: Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 1 and here My Destructive Marriage.
I still believe in listening, affirming, and believing spouses who say they are in an abusive relationship as I wrote about in Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond, Part 2.
You never know what goes on in someone else’s home. You have no way of understanding if the woman sitting next to you in Bible study, or worshiping next to you in church is secretly being mistreated in her home. If she should muster up the courage to tell you; please listen. Please believe her.
I worked off the premise that, domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.
The abuser needs healing. I don’t believe women should go to counseling with their abuser. Why? The victim shares no responsibility in the abuser’s character, attitude or actions.
There is scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle.
We considered Nabal and Abigail from I Samuel 25; and other examples that you can read about here…Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond? Part 3
So many women have a similar story. There is a strong community of these women across the country, and throughout the world.
This is Naghmeh’s story. Yet I remember having some of the same thoughts and feelings. I’m grateful that today we have the tool of the internet to connect hurting women to one another. They can find help navigating a seemingly impossible road and find encouragement and support from one another.
Naghmeh believed what so many other women are taught; that having a good marriage is up to them alone and based solely on their ‘dying to self.’ This is a destructive and often deadly teaching for women married to abusers.
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By: Naghmeh Panahi
This is in reference to one of the best articles I have read: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce. I hope it is a source of encouragement to those who have had to walk through this and that it gives a deeper desire to study the Word of God carefully and to know Jesus more.
Until two years ago wherever I traveled and spoke, my advice to women (those who even confessed to me horrific abuse and adultery) was to die to themselves and love and obey more. You can look up YouTube videos of my talks at different conferences and churches (under Naghmeh Abedini).
Therefore I put the burden of saving a corrupt marriage on the oppressed. I believed with all of my heart that if we, as women, would just die to ourselves more and love and submit more, a marriage could be salvaged. I judged those who divorced and specially the woman. I would think to myself “I am sure she was not so innocent herself and was to blame.”
No one in the world could have changed my mind. It was deeply rooted in what I was taught by the church of how much “God hates divorce,” but also my deeply rooted Middle Eastern culture that as a woman you put up with anything for the sake of the children; not to mention the shame and rejection a woman of Middle Easter origins has to face when she is divorced.
I was taught that love “covers a multitude of sin” which meant that I should hide the sin of my spouse, not talk of it, and in the process created a false image of our family. Oh, the shame I felt whenever the smallest negative word or confession would escape my lips about my husband…even to my parents and closest friends…I was taught not to even approach another about sin because “we are not each other’s Holy Spirit.” That a good wife hides and not airs the dirty laundry…
So I gave it my all. And in the process of giving it my all and trying desperately to get my husband out of prison and to honor him as my husband, a very false image was created of him. I gave and gave convincing myself that if I laid down my life enough, he would change. But things got worse and the world didn’t know. The world didn’t know that the abuse and porn addiction continued from behind prison doors. How could he have a smart phone with internet inside of an Iranian prison??? I kept crying out to God! The world did not know and the burden got heavier and heavier to carry. No one knew the night before his arrest he had cheated on me with the same woman that he now advocates for from the minute he got out of the Iranian prison. But a godly Christian woman would forgive the adultery and the porn addictions and abuse. But would I have to live with it for the rest of my life? Under such darkness?
Yes. I gave it my all until I had nothing to give and reached the end of myself. It was then that I cried out to Jesus and I heard the gentle voice of my Savior, “Enough!” It was through His Strength that for the first time I drew boundaries and said no more to such darkness and abuse.
My heart was broken into a million pieces when Saeed filed for divorce. I had hoped that my separation and pleading would end in him getting help and it would end in reconciliation and a healed marriage. NOT DIVORCE.
How I was broken. Facing my worst fear of being a divorced single mom. Yet I could not back down. The same love that took me before presidents and governments to get him out of the physical prison, demanded that I would not back down on my boundaries in the hopes that he would be freed from his spiritual prison.
Through it all my Savior stood with me and cleansed me and is healing me and my children with His Word. For almost two years I have sat under the feet of Jesus and am learning to pay close attention to the Word of God and step into obedience of His Word by His Grace alone. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know and what a filthy sinner I am covered by the blood of The Lamb and in desperate need of God’s Grace.
So I have been hesitant to share. Surely most Christians know so much more than me. I feel like a babe in Christ. And the times I do share, I see it tinted with pride and arrogance. Oh this fallen nature. To be freed of it one day when I see Jesus face to face!
So I share this article and hope and pray that more rise up and are a voice for the oppressed.
“Evangelical and confessional churches are striving to maintain a high view of marriage in a culture that is ripping the institution to shreds. So extra-biblical barriers to divorce can be well-meant. They try to protect marriage by doing everything possible to avoid divorce. In doing so, they not only fail to keep a high view of marriage. They also spread lies about the gospel, divorce, the value of people, the character of God, and the nature of sexual sin.”