Protesters Urge Iranian Health Minister to Enforce Disability Law

Disabled protesters demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education in Tehran earlier this month, demanding the enforcement of Article 6 of the Disability Act, which entitles people with disabilities to receive physiotherapy, psychological counseling and occupational therapy as part of their health insurance coverage.

“Article 6 of the Disability Act explicitly states that disability insurance include rehabilitation services (physiotherapy, speech therapy, workplace rehabilitation). However, the ministry has not provided those services,” ILNA (Iranian Labor News Agency) reported, citing the protesters. “We cannot afford to pay for these services ourselves under current economic conditions.” 

Protesters said Health Minister Saeed Namaki and other government officials had failed to respond to their letters regarding the issue. As a result, they staged a sit-down in front of the ministry to have their voices heard.

Footage posted by Kayhan London shows a group of disabled men and women protesting on the front steps of the Health Ministry. They hold placards that read: “Disability Campaign. The Disabled Act Must Be Implemented.”

“We used to protest every two or three months, but we will come around every week from now on,” said a middle-aged man in a wheelchair wearing a surgical mask. “We will sit here until they give us an answer. It is better than sitting at home and feeling powerless.”

He added: “All around the country, people with disabilities live with constant aches and pains. We are spearheading the fight for the rights of disabled people. We will soldier on until the [health] minister or other officials hear our grievances. We will continue to come here every week until they implement Article 6. The Disability Act guarantees our rights. We are not breaking any laws.”

“All our letters have gone unanswered, so we have staged a protest,” the man explained. We invite others to join us in our efforts. Even if no one were to show up next week, I would be here by myself raising public awareness about the plight of disabled people. 

He warned: “History will show how hard disabled people fought for their legal and human rights, and who neglected them. History will judge you, Mr. Minister. History will exact justice for your apathy. History will judge you harshly.”

The man led the protesters in a series of chants including “The Disabled Act Must Be Enforced,” and “Article 6 Is Our Inalienable Right.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]