By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Pastor Saeed Abedini not only confronts deadly conditions in Iran's Rajai Shahr prison, but he also faces direct threats on his life from other prisoners.
Abedini is facing constant threats to his life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives.
The ACLJ said his "cell" is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share. That allows dangerous prisoners - murderers and rapists - access to him 24 hours a day.
Abedini has also been robbed at knife point several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.
The ACLJ said, "As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed's health has quickly deteriorated."
The pain in Abedini's stoma ch has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys. As a result of repeated beatings in Evin Prison, Abedini also suffers from internal bleeding.
After months of being refused medical care, the ACLJ said Abedini was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year. As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided.
However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication and his condition is worsening.
In addition to being denied needed medication, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to Abedini's body being covered head to toe in lice. Because of the lice and increased pain, he is having trouble sleeping.
He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections. There is no medication to stop the infections. He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.
T he ACLJ said Abedini has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.
"The conditions he faces are unfathomable, "the ACLJ said. "He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis. Iran has sent him to disappear. The time is now to pressure Iran for his release. Each day could be his last."
These troubling reports make Albuquerque Pastor Alan Hawkins' efforts to pressure the Iranian authorities to free Abedini even more crucial.
Social media blitz to free Abedini
Abedini's plight caught the attention of Alan Hawkins, founding pastor of Albuquerque's New Life City Church. Hawkins has organized a social media "event" to bring attention to Abedini's plight.
Those interested are encouraged to get involved by going to www.facebook.com/events/
The hope is that an onslaught of attention, and the accompanying pressure, will help in Abedini's release.
But how did Hawkins, 59, come up with this idea? In a recent interview he told me that his interest took a while to sprout.
Hawkins said it was his brother-in-law who first drew his attention about a year ago to Abedini's situation.
"I read the basics and then forgot about it," Hawkins said.
That changed when a group of men with whom Hawkins "blogs with theologically" began sharing their displeasure about how Abedini's situation has been handled by the American administration.
Hawkins said, "We complain a lot. Why don't we do something?"
Some more discussion resulted in a social media blitz focused on Dec.4. Hawkins said he came up with the Dec. 4 date as that was the day former hostage and Associated Press Correspondent Terry Anderson wa s released in 1991 from six years and nine months of captivity in Lebanon.
Hawkins said the project is an attempt to create "viral awareness" about Abedini's plight. He dubbed it a "spontaneously generated passion."
Reflecting on his fellow theological bloggers, Hawkins said "We're a bunch of people who had spent years debating over stuff who finally decided to do something."
And now the spark of passion has ignited, Hawkins said he's going to see it through.
"I don't expect them to release Abedini on the 4th, but I expect the awareness to rise to another level. I think American Christians really care, but they don't know much. This will put it in their faces, and we'll also make sure the politicians know we do care."
People do care. At time of writing, about 25,000 people had signed up for the "event."
To contact Hawkins, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org