Uzbekistan, located in Central Asia, is one of the largest exporters of cotton in the world. For decades, the government of Uzbekistan, under President Islam Karimov, has forced adults and children as young as 10 to pick cotton under appalling conditions each harvest season. Provincial government offices order schoolteachers to close schools and enforce quotas in the cotton fields. The local authorities send government and private business employees to pick cotton, in order to meet cotton production quotas. The Uzbek government combines these orders with threats, detains and tortures Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation, and refuses to allow international monitors into the country.
- Every year the government of Uzbekistan forcibly mobilizes over a million children, teachers, public servants and employees of private businesses for the manual harvesting of cotton. The Uzbek government requires farmers to grow cotton, and local provincial government offices (khokimiyats) forcibly mobilize adults and children to harvest cotton and meet assigned quotas. Children are also forced to weed and prepare cotton fields in the springtime.
- Threats of expulsion keep children in the fields despite the hazardous nature of the work and receiving little or no financial benefit. Adults are threatened with the loss of employment, pensions and child benefits if they refuse to work. The coercion used to ensure that children and adults participate in the cotton harvest stems directly from regional and local government officials.
- Forced labor and child labor in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan is unique to the world: it is a state-controlled system, under the direction of a president in power since the end of the Soviet Union, Islam Karimov.
- Profits of the Uzbek cotton sector support only the Karimov government. Uzbek farmers are forced to meet state-established cotton quotas, purchase inputs from one state-owned enterprise, and sell the cotton to a state-owned enterprise at artificially low prices. The system traps farmers in poverty, and the state profits from high-priced sales to global buyers. The cotton ends up in brand-name retail and apparel supply chains and therefore on consumers.
- The Karimov administration detains, tortures, and exiles Uzbek citizens who call for recognition of human rights, violating their human rights and denying freedoms of speech and the press.
- The Uzbek-government forced labor system violates the human rights of Uzbek citizens and condemns future generations to a cycle of poverty. The practice violates Uzbek labor laws and fundamental international labor and human rights conventions ratified by the Uzbek government. The state-controlled system of forced labor blatantly violates the international convention against trafficking in persons and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WE CAN END FORCED LABOR AND CHILD LABOR IN UZBEKISTAN:
- Urge the Government of Uzbekistan to allow the International Labour Organisation to monitor the cotton harvest
- Urge your government to utilize their diplomatic and economic leverage to support human rights in Uzbekistan
- Ask apparel companies to ensure that no Uzbek cotton is in their supply chain until forced labor in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan is ended