Imagine not being able to communicate with your family, not being able to kiss your children good night or spend birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas with them.

One man from Idaho is living this nightmare. He is in Rajaei Shahr prison in Iran.

Imagine not being able to communicate with your family, not being able to kiss your children good night or spend birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas with them.

One man from Idaho is living this nightmare. He is in Rajaei Shahr prison in Iran.

An East Peoria woman, Teresa Botkin, wants to be a voice for the Rev. Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned Sept. 26, 2012, due to his Christian beliefs, she said.

Botkin, the wife of a former pastor, Daniel Botkin, said when she heard about the injustice, she wanted to do something. Last year, she conducted a prayer vigil at the City Hall fountain. This year, she will do the same prayer vigil at RiverFront Freedom Memorial Park (behind Walmart) at noon Sept. 26.

In addition to East Peoria, this year, prayer vigils are being conducted in about 480 cities and countries, compared to 80 last year. Botkin said Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, has been on Fox News and the word is spreading.

The timing for the vigil this year is good, Botkin said, adding that she feels like it is not a coincidence.

“The fact that people are praying all over the world, not just for him, but for the persecuted church and you see what’s going on in the world right now in Iraq and in Syria and all those other places, this is my heart right now,” Botkin said. “I am speaking out for Saeed and the persecuted church.”

With the unrest in the Middle East being in the forefront of the news currently, Botkin said she thinks people are going to take more notice.

“The fact all these other events are going on right now it’s going to make this a bigger thing. I think that’s going to make people say, ‘Yes, we need to come together. We need to put down the walls that separate us from one another, all the denominational and doctrinal things that push people apart,’” she said.


A change of heart

Abedini, 33, a U.S. citizen since 2010, lived in Iran when he converted to Christianity in 2000.

“He saw a man in a park who was preaching and Saeed was filled with hate and wanted this man killed. He went home and went to bed that night. He had a dream, a vision of Jesus telling him that he was coming soon. Saeed went back to sleep and he had the vision again, and that changed his life. He started telling everyone about Jesus,” Botkin said.

After his conversion, he started to create house churches where people met in secret to worship. 

In 2002, he met Naghmeh, his future wife, while she was in Iran visiting relatives. Naghmeh moved with her family from Iran to the United States when she was in fourth grade.

According to a timeline provided by the American Center for Law and Justice, in 2009, the young couple returned to Iran with their two young children. During this trip, Iranian authorities arrested Saeed at the airport. They told him to cease all house church activities to which he agreed. The government did allow him access to travel freely to Iran because Saeed was working on establishing orphanages.

Over the next few years, Saeed did just this and traveled back and forth to Iran eight times. On his ninth trip, something went terribly wrong.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards took Saeed off the bus at the border and put him under arrest at his parent’s home in Iran. Despite the fact that Saeed got the ACLJ, a constitutional and human rights law advocacy group in Washington, D.C., behind him, he was imprisoned and spent four weeks in solitary confinement.

He met with his Iranian lawyer once, less than 24 hours before his trial. Saeed was convicted of crimes against the national security of Iran for his prior involvement with Christian house churches. His was sentenced to eight years in prison, which Botkin called a “death sentence.”

Botkin said Saeed suffered beatings and interrogations. 

“Other prisoners are threatening his life,” she said.

According to ACLJ news posts on, ISIS militants who are imprisoned with Saeed at Rajaei Shahr prison, are threatening to kill him because he is a U.S. citizen and due to his Christian faith.

At one point Saeed was even hospitalized due to his beatings. 

“He was told he would be given medical treatment for his injuries and he was not given the necessary treatment,” Botkin said. 

During this time, prison guards stormed into Saeed’s hospital room and beat him until he was nearly unconscious, she said. His parents witnessed the ordeal, Botkin said.

“They drug him out and took him back to the prison. There was no reason (for the beating) and they did it right in front of his parents,” Botkin said.

The only way Naghmeh has been able to get information about her husband is through his parents who visit him 20 minutes a week. 

“That is not face to face seeing him, it’s with some kind of barrier between them except for two or three times they were actually able to have physical contact with them,” Botkin said.

During one visit, Saeed’s father took a blanket to the prison for his son, but he was turned away.

Recently, Naghmeh had her young son and daughter record a video pleading for their father’s safe return home. That video was sent to President Obama. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been vocal about Saeed’s release. On Sept. 27, 2013, Obama spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and expressed concern about Saeed’s condition and asked for him to be released.

Locally, Botkin is doing her part.

“My prayer is that actually before this prayer vigil we can turn it into a celebration of his release,” Botkin said.

Botkin, who is friends with Naghmeh on Facebook, was touched by one of her recent posts. Naghmeh talked about very dark and unbearable times and wondering about God’s presence. 

“I had moments of panic of ‘Where is God?’ ‘Why is all this happening?’ and questions of ‘How long?’” Naghmeh said in her post. 

But then, Naghmeh said she did indeed feel God’s presence in her life and that it had been there all along.

“I felt led to share my struggles so that in your struggles and weariness you can be encouraged to press on to Jesus.”

Botkin said she is putting forth the effort for another Christian whom she has never met due to two Bible versus: Hebrews 13:3, which says, “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body,” and Galatians 6:2, which says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens,...”

There is a petition for people to sign at

To participate in the prayer vigil in East Peoria, contact Teresa Botkin at 698-9467 or by email at