Uzbekistan, a leading producer of silk cocoons, relies on forced labor for their production, which violates the rights of farmers and public-sector workers and exploits the vulnerability of the rural poor. Uzbek farmers must produce silk cocoons under coercion to fulfill government quotas and they must sell their cocoons to the government at the official procurement price, leaving them little or no profit, and in many cases in debt
A monitor from Uzbek-German Forum interviewed a farmer from the Khorezm region who described his experience with the command system of management in the Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector. Farmers do not have the freedom to choose what crops to grow; the state sets the prices and can arbitrarily and punitively “redistribute” the land of the farm at any time, despite an existing lease, leaving farmers in a particularly vulnerable situation.
A first-ever delegation representing the Cotton Campaign presented recommendations on how to end systematic forced labor in the cotton sector to senior Uzbek government officials on its visit to Tashkent from May 10-16, 2018. The delegation also consulted independently with civil society activists, farmers and representatives of international agencies and ambassadors of other interested governments at this hopeful time for reform in Uzbekistan.
The 96-page report, “‘We Pick Cotton Out of Fear’: Systematic Forced Labor and the Accountability Gap in Uzbekistan,” details how the government forced education and medical workers, other public sector employees, private sector workers, people receiving benefits, and some college and university students to pick cotton involuntarily.
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.