Abusive Treatment by State Welfare Organization Staff
Many persons with disabilities told our researcher that SWO staff had been disrespectful toward them and verbally abused them. For example, when Shahla and her husband, both deaf, were considering having a baby, their friends told them that with a reference letter from SWO, they could receive free genetic counseling and testing. When Shahla visited the SWO office near her home, she faced what she described as “insulting and heartbreaking behavior” from a social worker:
My mom was busy that day and couldn’t accompany me to interpret. But I thought it would be easy. I said to myself that I was going to the [State] Welfare Organization and they would understand. But the lady working there literally got mad at me. I’ll never forget that day. I tried to talk to her by writing on a piece of paper, but she started shouting, and I could tell she was insulting me. I cried so much.
The social worker continued insulting her, asking why a deaf couple wanted to have a child, and claiming that Shahla and her husband “just wanted to add another deaf person like ourselves to the world.”
Other persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and their family members recounted similar examples of insulting and humiliating behavior by SWO staff, especially by social workers, who are their primary point of contact. For example, Narges had been in a SWO office in Tehran to request services for her daughter, Mahsa, who is hard of hearing. Narges said that when she asked the social worker to help expedite the delivery of hearing aids to her daughter, because she couldn’t hear anything with her old hearing aids and was really struggling, “[the officer] became angry and said she didn’t care at all that my daughter couldn’t hear and that we had to wait as long as necessary.”.
Sohrab, a 30-year-old deaf man, said, “They speak to us very disrespectfully in the [State] Welfare Organization offices. Once I went to get a disability certification to give to the university I was attending. After I waited for a long time for the letter, the social worker told me, “‘You guys [who are deaf] are always nagging. You shouldn’t be coming here so often.’ It was an absolute insult. My question is that if they don’t want to see us, why have they accepted this job?!”
Akbar, the father of a man with psychosocial disabilities, described his experience trying to get services for his son. “State Welfare Organization staff often speak to us in a rude and even threatening way,” he said. “Once I asked one official in our local SWO [office] to explain to me what his responsibilities and roles were. He shouted back at me and said that he didn’t have to explain anything to me. Witnessing such behavior makes me believe that if a person with a disability in Iran has a family to support them, they can survive and develop. But if not, they would be left on their own [without state support] to suffer until their lives end.”
SWO staff’s offensive behavior has led some people to limit their visits to the organization’s offices to only the most essential requests, such as obtaining disability certificates.Banafsheh, a 37-year-old blind woman living in Tehran, said:
Among the worst experiences I’ve had in my life in terms of dealing with public bodies are those interactions I had with the [State] Welfare Organization. It’s a real torture for me if I have to go there. So I try not to request anything from them unless it is really necessary.