Watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday I wondered why such opportunities to highlight people in the gallery don’t often include parents and spouses who suffer silently while awaiting the return of their imprisoned loved ones.
I immediately thought of two Idaho families: the parents of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, a soldier held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for four and one half years now; and Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Boise Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been jailed in Iran since September, 2012, for practicing his Christian faith in Iran.
Today Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, released a video of his questioning high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials during a Senate select intelligence committee hearing.
Though assuring Bergdahl’s family that freeing their son is a 24-7-365 top priority, that doesn’t diminish the frustration and fear that grows with the passage of time.
We only hope the Obama administration is open to any and all negotiations to that end. We appreciate the sensitivity in both cases, but the captivity of these two Idahoans is now marked in years and not days or weeks.
Our frustration regarding Abedini is different. We don’t understand how the U.S. State Department can negotiate with Iran without first demanding the release of Abedini. Unlike Bergdahl, who was serving in the military, Abedini placed himself in harm’s way and knew he faced a risk.
But he believed he had permission to be in Iran and to go about the mission of helping people in his native country start an orphanage. Beyond that, he is an American citizen.
The only legitimate reason we can imagine that Naghmeh Abedini and Bergdahl’s parents weren’t standing next to Michelle Obama Tuesday evening in Washington is that doing so might jeopardize their loved one’s release.
The State of the Union is breached and incomplete when Idahoans or any other American citizens are imprisoned against their will in a foreign country. And that should be noted in any address to the nation.