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The "Golden Ticket," or, You are Free to Go (home from the cotton fields and from your college besides)
Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Pakhtakor [cotton picker] district, Jizzakh province
October 28, 2009
Feruza is an ordinary student, a graduate of the technical high school in the town of Pakhtakor. Together with her classmates she was sent out to work in the cotton fields. Shortly thereafter her dust allergy brought up hives on her hands and face. She went to the local polyclinic, but no one would examine her there. At the same time the lecturers at her institute began to harangue her for not showing up to pick cotton.
Feruza came to the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan to get help in obtaining a certificate of her illness [excusing her from work in the fields] to present to her college. So we accompanied Feruza to the local dermatological hospital and met with the doctor on duty, Akbar Khamidov. Dr. Khamidov, despite the fact of Feruza's obvious symptoms, told her that he could not treat her because of an order from "on high" not to give out any certificates to anyone even if they are truly sick. When asked who gave such an order, Khamidov answered that it came from the provincial health department. I [Saida Kurbonova, chair of the HRSU in the district] asked him, did he take the Hippocratic oath and vow to provide treatment to the sick? Or perhaps he took some oath about not violating orders of local bureaucrats? At that he agreed at least to examine Feruza, but he first called the head of the hospital and told him about our request. After receiving permission from the chief doctor, Khamidov examined the patient, wrote her a prescription, and inscribed on a paper that "The student is truly ill and is receiving treatment at our hospital."
We took that paper to Feruza's college. However, the academic dean, who introduced herself as Nargiza, didn't accept it, and instructed us to bring a different paper from the [central] polyclinic, "Excusing the holder from work in the cotton harvest."
The next day, we went to the central district polyclinic where we were told that such a certificate would be enforced only if it had the triangular stamp of the polyclinic, and in addition, the round stamp of the hospital. We turned again to the head doctor of the hospital, one Sh. Boltaev, who placed the necessary stamp on our paper. After lunch we went back to the polyclinic, where we were told that the patient would have to be examined by a committee of doctors: a surgeon, an internist, an opthomologist, and others. And, at the end of the day, after being examined by all of those doctors, our student finally received that golden paper, excusing her from work in the fields.
Feruza brought the certificate to the college the following day, but turned out that her troubles weren't finished. After two days had passed Feruza's class director brought all of her official registration papers back to her home and announced that, as she was not participating in the cotton harvest, she had been expelled.
We spent two days to get a certificate of illness when the girl had obvious symptoms. The College administration, not hesitating at the fact that Feruza had been studying there for two years, even after receiving this certificate, decided to expel her. We immediately appealed to the College administration for them to reinstate Feruza, which they did. In this one instance we were able to defend the rights of this student. However we must note that hundreds of students in higher education institutions and schoolchildren are in analogous situations, working in cotton fields all around the country. They are living in inhumane conditions, eating food unfit for human consumption, sleeping on the floor, and getting sickened by all manner of illnesses. What is to become of them?
Chairperson, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan
Pakhtakor district, Jizzakh province