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Franklin Graham must answer for his bullying of domestic violence survivor Naghmeh Panahi

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Content warning: Discussion of domestic violence.

For much of the second half of the Obama administration, Iranian-born pastor Saeed Abedini was the face of persecuted Christians around the world. He spent almost four years in an Iranian prison on trumped-up charges of endangering national security. In truth, he had been ensnared in the heavy-handed persecution that Christians in Iran have long faced under the mullahs. But by the time he was released in January 2016, he had been exposed as an abusive jerk. HIs wife, Naghmeh Panahi, revealed in November 2015 that she had endured years of physical and emotional abuse at Abedini’s hands. According to Panahi, the emotional abuse continued unabated, even while Abedini was imprisoned.

Last month, Panahi—who divorced Abedini in 2017 and returned to her birth surname—told Christian journalist Julie Roys that when she began speaking out, one of the biggest heavyweights in the evangelical world tried to bludgeon her into silence: Franklin Graham. Panahi released a tranche of email exchanges in which Graham subjected her to victim-blaming and victim-shaming of the worst type, and also recounted phone conversations in which Graham did the same.

Not much fazes me about the religious right anymore, but reading and listening to Panahi recount how Graham subjected her to this ham-handed bullying made my blood run cold—even more so after I chatted with Panahi myself via Twitter direct messages. As outrageous as it has been to see Graham use the legacy of his father, Billy Graham, to carry water for the religious right, what he did to Panahi is far, far worse. The more I’ve thought about it since writing about it late last month, the more I believe that we need to find a way to make Graham answer for it.

Of all the emails Panahi released, the one that Graham sent her in January 2016—not long before Abedini was released—really drove me up the wall. By this time, Panahi and her two children had moved back in with Panahi’s parents. And yet Graham saw fit to rebuke her for it, saying that the Bible required her to “leave mother and father” and “become one flesh.” He told Panahi that her kids “need their father (and) they need you,” and warned that “a broken home” could potentially “destroy their lives.” He suggested that she and Abedini “get away from both (your) families” and reconcile.

Graham fired off this email knowing about........

© Daily Kos

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