A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Naghmeh’s story Part 2

Naghmeh Pahani’s second interview with Julie Roys has been published. I highly commend it. Naghmeh’s Story: Abuse and Betrayal Behind #SaveSaeed, Part II

If you have suffered domestic abuse, I think you will find things you relate to in Naghmeh’s story. If you want to help victims of domestic abuse, I think you will learn a lot from Naghmeh’s story.

Franklin Graham demanded that Naghmeh reconcile with her unrepentant abuser. Franklin accused Naghmeh of embarrassing and shaming her husband by exposing him publicly. He also instructed her to lie to protect her husband’s reputation.

Franklin didn’t care that Saeed had threatened to take the kids to Iran — where Naghmeh would stand no chance of getting them back. If Franklin’s plans had come to fruition, it is almost certain that Saeed would have been able to carry out that threat.

The bottom line was that Franklin didn’t believe Naghmeh was a victim of abuse because Saeed had not beaten her to a pulp every night.

How often have we heard that refrain? Christians who enable abusers have a faulty concept of domestic abuse. Usually their concept is confined to physical violence — which conveniently dismisses coercive control, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, etc. Their concept of ‘physical violence’ is elastic in favour of the abuser, so they can say that whatever physical assaults the victim may have suffered, those assaults are not real abuse because they were not serious or frequent enough to qualify. All victims can be dismissed this way.

Franklin Graham’s sister, Anne Graham Lotz, told Naghmeh, “Franklin does not understand. And I also can tell you, Franklin is not a good listener.” Franklin didn’t want to understand. And he certainly didn’t want to listen to Naghmeh.

Franklin Graham runs a ministry in Alaska for army veterans who have PTSD. Many of those soldiers are abusing their wives. We can only guess at how many domestic abuse victims Franklin Graham has mistreated!

Naghmeh also tells how Jay Sekulow from the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) told her to lie. The ACLJ had helped her advocate for her husband’s release from jail, but when it became public that her husband was an abuser, they wanted to hose it down. Naghmeh says:

“The message I got from ACLJ was, ‘Now media is on this. We need to have a statement . . . What are we going to say to the media? We can say you’re on medication and you are mentally ill.’”

Again, this is a typical refrain from abusers and their enablers: “The woman is crazy — mentally ill.”

Naghmeh refused to lie. She told Sekulow that she was seeing more clearly than she had in years. I would love to have seen Sekulow’s face when he realised he could not bully this woman!

In the interview Naghmeh gives glory to God for providentially protecting her from unsafe meetings with Saeed. I found that aspect of Naghmeh’s story inspiring and encouraging. All the scary things that happened to Naghmeh, God has used for good to strengthen and build up Naghmeh. She is now helping abused women in the Middle East. She deplores the celebrity culture in the American church. I’m sure that her interview with Julie Roys will have ripples all round the Christian community. Those who have ears to hear will hear. Those who have stiff necks will harden their hearts further.

An excerpt from Julie Roy’s introduction:

In this second of a two-part podcast with Naghmeh, you’ll hear audio from an intense meeting Naghmeh and her pastor had with Franklin Graham and Saeed in 2016. Julie also shares emails between Franklin and Naghmeh, where Franklin calls Pastor Saeed a “hero” and rebukes Naghmeh for revealing her husband’s abuse and embarrassing him.

You’ll also hear about a surprise visit to Naghmeh’s house that Franklin Graham arranged by flying Saeed, his parents, two counselors, and a bodyguard to Boise on a private jet.

And you’ll hear part of a campus-wide gathering at Liberty University where Saeed is praised as a “hero of the faith.” This convocation happened several months after Naghmeh went public about Saeed’s abuse.

Go here to listen the interview / watch it on video / or read the transcript.


Related reading

About Naghmeh Panahi — born in Iran in a Muslim family, Naghmeh sought God and became a Christian at age 9. She is now sharing the gospel and helping abused women in the Middle East.

Tahrir Alnisa Foundation — Tahrir Alnisa means “setting women free.” This is the work Naghmeh is now involved in. They say: “We are a team of women who know what it’s like to be abused or to help those who have been abused by someone they love. We help women escape and recover from domestic abuse.”

Part 1 of Naghmeh’s interview: original on Julie Roy’s site and featured here on  A Cry For Justice.


  1. letsgetreal2016

    This makes me sick. So much of modern Christianity, and so called Christian ministries are hypocritical and self serving. So many passages in the Bible talk of how the Lord is close to the broken hearted, the oppressed. Yet so called “Christians” further oppress and abuse people. I was supporting Jay Sekulow, I won’t anymore.

  2. Monica

    My husband and I attended church for about 30 years while I was living with domestic violence. I only went to church pastors for counseling. I was afraid to seek counsel from the ungodly (Psalm 1). I did not seek help outside the church. I always went alone to speak to pastors. My husband always refused counseling. He used Bible scripture to make me submit to him. All the pastors also quoted Bible scripture to keep me in my place. They said my marriage was my cross to bear. Pray, stay and obey! I had to dissociate from my emotions for about 30 years to survive. After the divorce, it was time to heal. I had to feel the pain, deal with the lies and heal with the truth. About ten years later, my ex still takes no responsibility for abusing me. There is no repentance in his heart. He says I provoked him. He is a narcissist.

    [For safety and protection, the number of years have been lightly airbrushed. Editors.]

    • Dear Monica, I believe you. What the institutional church did to you was mind control. I am glad you got free. Recovering is painful, but in my experience it is better to feel the pain and grief than to be living a lie and be dissociated from one’s emotions.

      Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (I didn’t check that quote, it’s off the top of my head.) By disentangling the lies and healing with the truth, you are living proof of that. Hugs and blessings to you.

      • Reaching Out


        I think this might be the quote…

        From the New Matthew Bible:

        John 8:31-32
        New Matthew Bible

        31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed on him, If you continue in my words, then you are my very disciples, and shall know the truth; 32 and the truth shall make you free.

      • Thanks, Reaching Out!

  3. Suzanne

    The ACLJ has received their last donation from me.

    • Maybe we should dub the ACLJ the American Center for Lies and Injustice.

    • Finding Answers


      Thank you for the links to the articles by Bob Smietana and Darrell Lucus.

      The article by Darrell Lucas, a male survivor of domestic abuse, had a certain blunt honesty I could appreciate. And he includes other things in his article, such as taking James Dobson to task.

      From Darrell Lucas’ article, Franklin Graham must answer for his bullying of domestic violence survivor Naghmeh Panahi:

      Then I remembered that James Dobson, who is as “mainstream” as you can get in the conservative evangelical world, has told women for the better part of four decades that they shouldn’t walk out in an abusive situation. In his 1983 book, Love Must Be Tough, Dobson tells “Laura” that “divorce isn’t the answer” to the ordeal that her two-faced abusive jerk of a husband has put her and their kids through. Rather, she should try to “change her husband’s behavior.”

      Dobson does concede that the woman should move out until the husband shows he’s willing to change. But it’s beyond comprehension that anyone, especially a trained psychologist like Dobson, would even think you should stay in a marriage when abuse has gone on for this long—especially when there are kids in the picture. What makes this even more outrageous is that this advice has remained unchanged through four editions, the most recent in 2010. That is way, way beyond any possible good-faith interpretation. And yet, apparently this is still standard operating procedure in much of the evangelical world.

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