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Iran’s laws and its societal stigma has left its twelve million disabled citizens dependent on family and unable to achieve a better quality of life. In March 2018, the Iranian parliament adopted a “new disability law that increases disability pensions and extends insurance coverage to disability-related healthcare services.” An Iranian national agency has also reportedly begun assessing the accessibility of public buildings. However, Iran still has a long way to go in meeting its obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Iran ratified in 2009, as well as its own law on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities in Iran face a long and troubling list of abuses and discrimination. The most devastating of these is the lack of access to public transportation, health centers, and government offices, keeping those with disabilities stranded and unable to participate in society. Additionally, those with disabilities are insulted and humiliated by government social workers within Iran’s State Welfare Organization, the agency tasked with providing them with services and equipment that can only be obtained after a lengthy and complex procedure. Another alarming issue is that medical professionals may give electroconvulsive therapy and other treatments to patients with disabilities without informed consent or without providing the patient with information on treatment options.

In addition to the stigma faced by persons with disabilities from government agencies and society, there is also discrimination within Iranian laws. The law uses derogatory language, such as “mentally retarded,” “crippled,” and “insane,” and the law does not define discrimination. The government also completely disregards the law in practice. For example, Iran’s Education Ministry job application requirements prevent people with disabilities from applying. On May 13, 2018, Iran’s National Organization of Educational Testing published application requirements for prospective teachers to enroll for the qualifying test. Because of the medical requirements, the majority of the hearing impaired and blind would not be allowed to take the test. The requirements violate Article 15 of Iran’s Law for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that “the government is required to allocate three percent of official and contractual employment opportunities in government agencies…that receive funding from the national budget to qualified persons with disabilities.”

Iran’s actions and laws are in violation of many Articles of the CRPD. In order “to enable persons with disabilities to live independently,” Article 9 of the CRPD requires Iran to “take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.” Article 27 of the CRPD prohibits “discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to all matters concerning all forms of employment, including conditions of recruitment, hiring and employment, continuance of employment, career advancement and safe and healthy working conditions.” Access to transportation and services alongside employment opportunities would exponentially improve the quality of life for those living with disabilities in Iran.

On May 10, 2017, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published its concluding observations on Iran’s initial comprehensive report on measures taken by Iran to fulfill its obligations under the Convention. The Committee had several concerns and recommendations. One recommendation was that Iran “develop a targeted strategy to raise awareness among society about the inherent dignity of persons with disabilities.” Another recommendation was to “adopt a strategy to sensitize families and communities about respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities, combat stereotypes against them and prevent isolation and neglect.” The overarching theme of the concerns and recommendations was the absence of several elements needed to create a strong and protective legal and policy framework–most importantly a definition of disability-based discrimination; policies aimed at children and women with disabilities; measures to protect against obligatory medical and scientific research; and remedies and redress for exploitation and violence. Iran’s next report is due to the committee by June 19, 2022.