Iran’s State Broadcaster Discriminates against Women, People with Disabilities and Non-Muslims
IRIB’s New Job Posting Demands New Hires Be Male, Muslim and Without Disability
In its latest job posting, the Iranian state broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), listed “complete health and lack of physical disability” and “adherence to Islam and Velayat-e faqih [Iran’s system of clerical rule over the state]” as employment requirements for all its branches, while adding that “being a man” was a requirement in provincial branches.
According to the ad posted on July 27, 2019, only abled-bodied Muslim men may be hired by the IRIB. This posting blatantly enforces discrimination based on gender, religion and disability, violating numerous articles in the Iranian Constitution and other domestic laws, as well as international conventions to which Iran is a State Party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Fundamental Principles, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In addition, the job posting specifies that IRIB branches in all provinces except Tehran will require employees to sign an employment contract that forces employees to “legally commit to a ten-year obligation not to change his occupation or workplace.” This restriction is a violation of the right to freedom of employment and of an individual’s right to choose their place of residence, as outlined in the Iranian Constitution, the ICCPR and the ICESCR.
“The [IRIB] proved it is not law-abiding. It showed that it does not care for women’s rights, religious minorities or the disabled,” said a Tehran-based lawyer who spoke to CHRI on condition of anonymity.
“Expecting someone to pledge to have no right to change his job for 10 years is a form of forced labor, because this legal pledge deprives a person of the right to choose his job and his place of residence for a considerable time,” he continued.
“If the Administrative Justice Court gets involved in the case, it is likely to rule it violates the law. But the Court is usually very slow and there are no active organizations in Iran to go after such cases,” the lawyer added.
IRIB Violates National and International Commitments to Equal Employment for People with Disabilities
In this recruitment ad which was designed to attract people with expertise in electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, IRIB announced that “complete health” and “lack of physical disability” are requirements of employment. This directly violates the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), according to which member states, including Iran, are obliged to provide all necessary measures to ensure equal access to employment opportunities for all people with disabilities.
Paragraph One of Article 27 of the CRPD explicitly prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of disability in employment. In addition, under Article 15 of the Iranian Law to Protect Rights of the Disabled, passed by the parliament in March 2018, “the government is required to allocate at least three per cent of employment licenses (official, contractual or labor-based) of all governmental and public establishments such as ministries, organizations, institutions, public and revolutionary institutes and other establishments that use the national public budget, to eligible people with disabilities.”
Recruitment tests in recent years, however, have repeatedly violated the rights of people with disabilities. For instance, the instructions for the fifth central recruitment exam for employment in any government agency, published in May 2018, established discriminatory conditions for applicants, for example excluding people with visual and hearing impairments from teaching positions. This deprives these individuals of the chance to participate in a recruitment test that offers significant employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Iran.
In response to these requirements, a number of people with disabilities addressed Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in an open letter, demanding the suspension of the test and the proper implementation of the three per cent government employment quota for people with disabilities.
Nevertheless, the recruitment exam was held on schedule. Yet the objections led to a directive issued by the Office of Administrative Affairs and Recruitment in September 2018, which made the presence of State Welfare Organization representatives mandatory during job interviews for people with disabilities.
Disability Community Reacts to IRIB’s Discriminatory Recruitment Policies
Mohammad Kamali, disability rights advocate and former Chair of the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation wrote on Twitter: “The gentlemen [at IRIB] again violated the law, such as Paragraph One of Article 7 in the Comprehensive Law on the Rights of People with Disabilities [Article 15 of the new Law to Protect the Rights of the Disabled]. The law explicitly considers a 3% quota for this community. In contrast, a person without an arm is proudly hired by the BBC as a children’s show host.”
The Campaign for the Implementation of the Law to Protect the Rights of the Disabled wrote on its Twitter account: “[IRIB] not only produces and distributes shows and movies that convey a negative view about people with disabilities, but has now added ‘complete health and lack of physical disability’ to its employment requirements.”
“Our community, despite a great deal of difficulty, has proved to be more successful in higher education than nondisabled people,” wrote a Twitter user named Neda, a disability rights activist who identifies as a person with disabilities. “But unfortunately, instead of supporting employment, the government takes away the small three percent quota.”
Different occupations may require different levels of physical and mental abilities that may not be suitable for some people with certain disabilities. However, such cases are few in number and in many cases, people with various disabilities can be hired if reasonable accommodation is provided. Moreover, the majority of people with physical disabilities who have been excluded from the IRIB’s recruitment tests would not need any special accommodation for this particular job.
Discrimination against Women and non-Muslims
In addition to people with disabilities, IRIB is also directly and explicitly discriminating against women and religious minorities in its hiring practices. The recent job posting has imposed gender restrictions in all provinces but Tehran, stating, “Applicants must be male and a native of the relevant province.”
Depriving women of the right to work in many professions, especially engineering, is a common practice, and one that is openly declared in public and private recruitment ads in which employers state their preference for male applicants without providing any explanation. In contrast, administrative and secretarial positions are often offered exclusively to women, demonstrating the extent to which gender stereotypes are prevalent in Iran. However, discrimination in employment based on gender is illegal and violates Article 20 of the Iranian Constitution and Article 3 of the ICCPR, as well as Article 3 of the ICESCR.
In addition, “adherence to Islam and Velayat-e Faqih” as an employment requirement deprives religious minorities, even those religions recognized by the Iranian Constitution, of employment at the organization.
“There was a lot of debate about whether ‘adherence to Islam and Velayat-e Faqih’ could be a requirement,” a Tehran-based lawyer told CHRI, “and some suggested that a pledge was sufficient, meaning that the employee would pledge to work in accordance to Islam and Velayat-e Faqih. But determining people’s ‘adherence’ requires questioning people’s beliefs, and that is not acceptable.”
“Unfortunately, requiring ‘adherence to Islam’ is very common in government job postings. Even for simple positions like administrative ones, which can require little political or cultural sensibility, non-Muslims are excluded. It’s not clear why,” the lawyer added.
Requiring Workers to Remain in the Job for 10 Years is Illegal
The job posting also states that employees in all provinces other than Tehran will be required to sign a pledge through which they commit not to quit or ask for a location change for 10 years. The justification for this requirement is the high demand for Tehran as a work location.
Yet no such justification makes it legal or ethical to require a ten-year commitment from employees. According to Article 21 of Iran’s Labor Law, resignation is the right of the employee, and similar to the employer, employees have the right to terminate contracts by giving a one-month notice. Thus IRIB is denying employees’ legal right to resign. As for prohibiting requests for location change, it could have been justified had it not been paired with the long-term employment commitment.
Articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the government of Iran is legally bound to, requires states to respect the freedom of individuals to choose their job.
Additionally, the ten-year employment commitment violates an individual’s right to choose their place of residence. Only by law and as punishment may one be forced to stay in a given location for a period of time. Although employers may face a shortage of workers in less desirable cities, managing the shortage may not lead to a violation of employees’ rights. Instead, offering additional benefits for employees in less desirable areas as inducements is one of many possible solutions to this problem.
SWO Responds to IRIB’s Discriminatory Recruitment Ads
On July 8, 2019, Head of SWO Vahid Ghobadi-Dana addressed the issue of the organization’s discriminatory recruitment ad in an open letter to IRIB Head Dr. Abdolali Ali Askari. Referencing the demands for equal employment opportunities in Article 27 of the CRPD and Article 15 of the Iranian Law to Protect Rights of the Disabled, Ghobadi-Dana wrote: “Despite the emphasis in relevant laws, we see how employment examinations from various institutions and organizations disregard the absolute right of people with disabilities. ‘Lack of disability’ as a requirement in recruitment ads prevents disabled people from accessing demanded job opportunities.”
“SWO expresses its readiness for a joint meeting with you and senior directors of [IRIB] to explain the capabilities of people with disabilities,” he added.
SWO Rehabilitation Director Mohammad Nafarieh said in an interview with ISNA on July 12 that the three per cent quota of openings (reserved for people with disabilities) would not be given to people without disabilities if enough people with disabilities were not hired each year, and would instead be carried over to the following years.
Noting the IRIB’s recruitment ad’s disregard of the quota, he added: “This happens often because these institutions aren’t aware of the Law to Protect Rights of the Disabled and the three per cent quota. After SWO’s investigations of all these cases, the law will be sent to the institutions and we will follow up on the employment of the disabled.”