In the first post of our series following updates from the 2016 cotton harvest, From the Fields, we want to relay a devastating story that came from an independent monitor yesterday. Despite repeatedly promising to stop this practice, the Uzbek government is indeed forcing teachers into the fields to pick cotton. The text below details a conversation between an Uzbek citizen and an independent monitor. The woman, a kindergarten teacher, was fired after refusing to abandon her children alone to pick cotton. She was unable to pay the fine for not working in the fields, which is roughly equal to a month’s salary.
“It was decided by lot that I had to go (to harvest cotton) in the first shift. My husband also had to go in this shift. Our kids are not too small anymore, but we still cannot leave them alone yet. Fortunately, at least they do not send first-year college and high school students.
This is a clear illustration of the situation that many Uzbek citizens are facing as the first stage of the cotton harvest gets underway. They are put in impossible situations, then fired from gainful employment when they are unable to surmount tremendous obstacles. This process of forced labor must be stopped. The woman who bravely offered this testimony was offered legal help in getting her job back, but declined out of fear of retaliation against her husband.
Information and translation provided by Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.