On April 21, the issue of forced labor among teaching professionals was discussed live on Uzbekistan’s main television channel. Speakers discussed a conference which took place on April 17, during which Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov severely chastised ministers of education and public health for forcing doctors and teachers to pick cotton, scrap metal, clean streets and carry out other “public” activities not related to their work.
The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, claimed that he is perfectly aware of the real situation in the regions and said that putting everything in order before his visits does more harm than good. The President threatened hokims [ed. – local governors] with severe consequences for forcing teachers to participate in beautification works and said it amounted to betrayal to force the involvement of employees in the public sector.
The Cotton Campaign welcomes the decision of a court in Uzbekistan to lift the terms of probation for human rights defender Uktam Pardaev 10 months early. Pardaev was arrested on November 16, 2015, following his reporting on forced labor during the 2015 cotton harvest. The Uzbek authorities released Pardaev on January 30, 2016, after convicting him to a 5 years 6 months prison term on fabricated charges, and subsequently changing the sentence to 3 years’ probation. Under probation, Pardaev had to register with the police twice a month, and had to obtain police permission to leave his hometown of Jizzak or leave his home after 10 pm.
The death of a 23-year-old female teacher
She didn’t simply die. She was run over by a Kamaz lorry. A handicraft teacher at school No 42 in Kattakurgan District, 23-year-old Diana Enekeeva (or Inikova, according to first reports) was a victim of forced labor, although some may say it was voluntary.
Starting 2022, the farm land lease agreements will be terminated with those farms which did not develop multifunctional operations. Farmers who used their land inefficiently may lose it. Yuliy Yusupov, an independent expert in economics, comments on the latest decree on agriculture.
In Tashkent, female employees of health clinics, schools, and kindergartens are forced to clean in low-income houses in the Sergeli district for free. Nurses complain that otherwise they are threatened with dismissal and withholding from their wages.
In the year-and-a-half since Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed power following the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, he has taken some steps to improve the country’s abysmal human rights record, such as releasing some political prisoners, relaxing certain restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the security services’ notorious “black list,” and increasing accountability of government institutions to the citizenry.
Malokhat is being targeted for her work monitoring forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s government-run cotton harvest
The head of the Parkent district administration of the Tashkent region, Nematulla Abdullaev, held a 45-minute meeting on November 1, 2017, during which he used abusive and insulting language to humiliate and intimidate the heads of organizations, enterprises, and community leaders for not sending enough people to pick cotton and meet quotas. An audiotape of this meeting was given to Radio Ozodlik (the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty) by the head of an organization who took part in the meeting
Bettina Sengling, a German journalist, has been following Uzbekistan’s most prominent human rights activists. In a recent article, published by the German magazine STERN, she reports on forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry and the challenges faced by human rights activists in their courageous fight to end these practices.