The UN Child’s Rights Convention is 20 years old (and Uzbek children are still out picking cotton)

Posted on November 23, 2009 by | No Comments

It’s a trite formula for a story:  note an anniversary of a worthy treaty/announcement/international agreement, then express regret that in spite of some laudable progress, look how far there is yet to go, throwing in a tear-jerking example or two.  This past week, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention on the […]

Following the trail of Uzbek cotton: taking names

Posted on November 23, 2009 by | No Comments

Where does the cotton go, and how can Western end-users avoid consuming it?  This is a question that needs a lot more exploration.  According to a recent press release, the cotton fair in Tashkent was a great success, pushing the slave-harvested commodity out and probably into goods that stock our shops.  Reportedly, contracts were signed […]

Cotton is in, but kids are still out

Posted on November 23, 2009 by | No Comments

Today the Veritas human rights group in Uzbekistan distributed their preliminary report on this year’s cotton harvest, with some photos to accompany it.  The report is not yet on the web, or in English, so I’ll post its most striking findings here.  Activists from the group surveyed conditions in 11 provinces; they recently toured through […]

The harvest is (mostly) in, but at what price?

Posted on November 23, 2009 by | No Comments

This is the question posed earlier this month by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.  That group’s press release of November 4 broke the stories of deaths and injuries suffered earlier in the harvest.  More than just breaking news, the group points out the total complicity of institutions that, in a non-totalitarian society […]

More retribution

Posted on November 16, 2009 by | No Comments

This just in from the Rapid Response Group, a coalition of Uzbek human rights activists.  Ganihon Mamakhanov, whose trial starts today, is a Fergana-based activist, arrested at the height of the cotton harvest (October 10) on trumped up charges after local police planted evidence on him.  The implications are clear for those brave individuals trying […]


Posted on November 11, 2009 by | No Comments

Uzbekistan’s government has never taken too kindly to those who would expose its crimes against its own people.  The brave people documenting the forced labor of children in the cotton harvest are no exception.  The BBC reports the latest violence against one of them here.

Expelled for being sickened by cotton

Posted on November 9, 2009 by | No Comments

It’s worth reading through the entire (slightly redacted) message below from the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, just to get a sense of the Orwellian humiliations people in Uzbekistan must endure during their annual “cotton campaign.”   This student was lucky enough to get reinstated in her institute, from which she was expelled for having […]

Analysis: forced child labor a symptom of deep structural problems in agriculture

Posted on November 9, 2009 by | No Comments

Deutsche Welle Russian service features a snapshot of current conditions and analysis of Uzbekistan’s forced child labor in cotton by Uzbek sociologist Alisher Ilkhamov.  Key point: …forced child labor is itself a symptom of deep structural problems in agriculture.  Amongthe primary ones is the strict centralization of the cotton sector in Uzbekistan, nearly to the […]

Guest blog: “No matter how many times you say the word ‘halva,’ it doesn’t get any sweeter in your mouth”: Hoja Nasreddin’s commentary on the new (no, really, NEW) Uzbek law against child labor

Posted on November 6, 2009 by | No Comments

The hero of Sufi fables and humorous stories, Hoja Nasreddin embodies folk wisdom.  He would have appreciated the assiduous attempts by Uzbek bureaucrats to turn black into white, churning out another in a series of laws prohibiting child- and forced labor.  To date, Uzbekistan has signed and ratified the UN conventions on forced- and child […]