Whose Disability (Studies)?
Defetishizing Disablement of the Iranian Survivors of the Iran-Iraq War by (Re)Telling their Resilient Narratives of Survival
This article is part of a larger inquiry into the production of disabled bodies due to violence. I examine processes of disablement in the global south, namely Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan, by wars launched and nurtured by both the local nation-states in the Middle East as well as the global north - the United States, Russia, and Western Europe. Utilizing a dialectical and historical materialist approach, I studied the Iran-Iraq war, the longest war of the 20th century. I explore how the disablement of global southern bodies in imperialist and nationalist wars is persistently naturalized – that is, attributed to the natural state of affairs in those regions, with the inevitable consequence that they cannot be connected to the violence of ongoing global and regional imperialism. This paper briefly touches upon the theoretical framework and methodology utilized to conduct this research, as well as the “problem” of disability in Iran. Subsequently, it goes on to extensively discuss the living conditions of the surviving Iranian veterans and surviving civilians of the Iran-Iraq war told through their own resilient voices. The veterans’ narratives expose their post-war experiences, including poverty, unemployment, inadequate medical-care, lack of medication due to the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions, and the presence of a dysfunctional disability-measurement system employed by the Iranian state. As a survivor of this war myself, I invite the reader to bear witness to how the violence of imperialism and nationalism not only renders people disabled, but also fetishizes their disablement by masking/mystifying the socio-political and economic relations that mediate the violent processes that render people disabled. By focusing on the veterans’ actual living conditions, this paper seeks to defetishize disablement, shifting the narrative of disabled veterans and civilians from tales of terrorism, heroism, living martyrdom, and patriotism, towards recognition of disability of/in human beings in need of care and support.