Iran is celebrating 24 medals at the Paralympic games, including 8 golds, but there is also mourning over the death of cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad. The athlete, who died on Sunday 18 September following a crash in a race the previous day, is the first athlete to die during a Paralympic competition. A moment’s silence was observed in Iran to mark Golbarnezhad’s death.
Despite wide coverage of the Paralympics, people with disabilities still face significant barriers to integration in Iranian society. There are around three million people living in Iran with ‘acute’ physical and mental disabilities, according to Iran’s Minister of Labor and Social Welfare. But despite the statistics it's still relatively uncommon to see people with disabilities out and about on the streets. It’s common for disabled children to not attend school, and many struggle to find employment. People from traditional, conservative backgrounds, still see disability as a religious affliction that can be cured though prayer.
The 2016 team was the largest Iran has ever sent to the Paralympics. We can pray their success this year - and also Golbarnezhad’s legacy- may help change the conversation in Iran over disability for the better.