A number of persons with disabilities have launched a sit-in protest in front of the Parliament building in Kabul, demanding law amendment. The protesters say the government has turned a blind eye on violation of their rights. Accusing the government of making empty promises, they say persons with disabilities in Afghanistan do not have access to basic rights such as access to health care and education services. As per the law, the protesters say, persons with disabilities should be given plots or apartments.
The protesters call on the MPs to amend some provisions of the Law on Rights and Privileges of Persons with Disabilities, which they say are discriminatory. In 1389 solar year (2010), the Parliament passed the law and then Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, endorsed it. In 2012, the government announced that it would amend controversial provisions of the law but it has not been amended until now.
Bashir Dira, who has protested, says he has not received any of the privileges the persons with disabilities are entitled to have. Pointing to the articles four and eight of the Law, Mr. Dira asks the government not to discriminate between the people who have lost their abilities to war and those who have natural disabilities. He says bereft of vaccination and medicines cause some to become disabled after their birth. “My wife was sick and they charged me 70 afghanis when I took her to Noor Hospital – an optic hospital. They told that the minister has instructed them to charge the same amount for all. What can I do with 5,000 afghanis [monthly salary] of which the government has not paid its 50 percent,” Mr. Dira says, questioning the government’s decision to reduce their monthly salaries by 50 percent.
He further went on to accuse the government of hesitating to amend the Law on Rights and Privileges of Persons with Disabilities despite making repeated promises. “The Presidential Palace promised on December 03 that [the government] would amend the Law for people with disabilities but it has yet to do.”
The privileges stipulated by the Law and promises made by the government remain unfulfilled and only a handful number of people who have connections in the government can receive their privileges, the protesters claim.
Article 23 of the Law obliges the government to build rehabilitation centers for persons with disabilities in the country. However, the protesters complain that the government has only built just one rehabilitation center for persons with disabilities in Afghanistan.
Asif Rahimi, who became disabled in crossfires between Mujahideen forces and then the government forces 34 years ago, is concerned about losing the government’s regular aid. “There is rumor in the State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Affairs that [the government] cancel salary payments for those who became disabled before the year 1380. I was asked to refer to the 400-bed hospital for re-verifying my disability. They made some excuses and sent me to the Ministry of Defense. When I went there (the Defense Ministry), they told me that my documents were burnt.”
Except the monthly salary, Mr. Rahimi has not received any other privileges set by the Law for Afghans with disabilities. “When it comes to treating persons with disabilities, they do not accept us at all. We would pay treatment expenses by our own whenever we get sick. Regarding employment, the Municipality had promised to provide us with 20,000 carts [for doing business]. We, around 8,000 persons with disabilities, applied for it but the Municipality responded that it couldn’t afford,” he says of other privileges. Mr. Rahimi also noted that whenever they have requested to be given land plots or apartments, their official requests are not processed by the authorities.
Ashiqullah, a protester, claims that the government has shut down his business and cut his monthly salary by half. “I have used part of the privileges but by force, not by law. Our salaries will be paid completely, if we pay bribe. But we have not that salary to pay bribe.”
Malik Mohammad Malikzada lost one of his foot 30 years ago in an explosion. He says the government has come short of fulfilling its promises for the people with disabilities. According Mr. Malikzada, a large number of persons with disabilities have not received any financial aid from the government and salaries of some of these people were reduced by 50 percent. “One of our demand is that three percent of Afghans with disabilities, who have abilities, should be employed,” he noted.
Though Abdul Manan rates his disability as “hundred percent”, he has not received none of those privileges set in the Law on Rights and Privileges of Persons with Disabilities. “I have not taken from the government neither land, nor any other privileges,” he noted, adding that the government asks them to provide their disability verification document while the documents have been lost by the government.
Will the government amend the Law?
According to the State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Affairs, the law has been finalized and it is waiting for the legal procedures to be completed in a bid to implement the law. “Last week, a joint commission of the Parliament and the Senate decided to consider the State Ministry for Martyrs and Disabled Affairs as an independent ministry in the [national] budget. The decision is handed over to the President. If it is approved by the President, then we will change the Ministry’s name and send it to the Ministry of Justice [for legal process],” the State Ministry stated.
Spokesperson for the State Ministry, Ziaulhaq Fazli, however, says that the protest was sparked after the government collected their carts from streets and cut aid to some people who have fake disability documents. “Our latest survey suggests that around 50,000 [ID] cards of the disabled are fake who receive aid from us. We verified 30,000 fake documents over past one year,” he asserted. According to him, Kabul Municipality will distribute carts for street vendors after registering their biometric records. Seven percent of them will be persons with disabilities, according to him.
He says that complaints made by persons with disabilities on lack of health and education services claiming are baseless. There are tens of vocational centers which provide Afghans with disabilities with technical and vocational trainings. Payabmbar-e-Azam Rehabilitation Center which is located in Darul Aman provides health and psychological services for people with disabilities, according to Mr. Fazli.
This story has been developed by Etilaat-e-Roz’s Hadi Khoshnawis and translated into English by Mokhtar Yasa.