Malokhat Eshonkulova is an independent journalist and human rights advocate in Uzbekistan. She has documented state-led forced labor in the cotton sector, despite attempts by the government to silence her. Most recently, on September 29, Police arrested Ms. Eshankulova while they were interviewing students sent to harvest cotton. During a 14-hour detention, the police ordered a body-cavity search presented no charges. On October 30, Ms. Eshonkulova sent the following letter to the President of Uzbekistan:
Dear Mr. President,
I appeal to you not as a journalist and human rights activist, but as a woman, as a mother of two daughters.
On November 10th of this year, there was to be held the wedding of my oldest daughter in the wedding location "Dilorom" in Tashkent. Everything was prepared for the wedding party, the mortgage was paid, the invitations distributed.
On October 30th, law enforcement officers came to the owner of the venue and forbid to hold the wedding. The owner said that if the wedding took place, all guests would be kicked out on the street, the venue would be closed, they would conduct an audit and let it turn out in such way that his business would have to close forever.
In response to these threats, the owner of the venue forbid the groom's relatives to rent the hall, returned the mortgage and advised then to not even look for other wedding locations saying: "It’s all the same, no one dares to hold your wedding."
Dear Mr. Islam Karimov and Mr. Shavkat Miramanovich!
My family has always lived and lives in accordance with the requirements of the Uzbek Constitution and laws. My daughter is still young, she never committed any crime.
Who are these people that threatened the owner of the location? Who are they to brazenly interfere with the lives of respectable citizens, ruining their plans and future?
I am a free citizen of Uzbekistan. If I were a criminal I would sit in prison.
My only fault is that I speak and write the truth, I expose the criminal wrongdoings of corrupt officials.
My fault is that I'm not afraid to confront the evil.
In the Stalin era, children were held accountable for the actions of their parents. Did we go back to that time? Who gave the law enforcement agencies the right to interfere with my daughter’s fortune? Why and for which purpose? What was her fault?
Is it only the fact that she is the daughter of Malokhat Eshonkulova?
Then please explain to me, what is my fault?
For which purpose are the law enforcement officers trying to ruin my daughter’s wedding? Maybe they decided to take revenge on me for writing true articles? And what do they want to achieve? That I stop to write and speak out the truth?
In fact, the story repeated itself. Our children got engaged 2 years ago. The wedding was to be held in October 2013. Then, police officers threatened the relatives of the groom. They presented me to them as an enemy of the Uzbek people. They reached such cynicism that they demanded from the groom's relatives to insist that my daughter should end the relationship with me in case the marriage was registered.
I do not know what these people want from me, persecuting my family.
I'm not a criminal; on the contrary, with my hard work I help to implement and maintain the rule of law, doing my small contribution to the creation of a democratic society in our country.
With this letter, I want to say that if there are any more unpleasant events at my daughter's wedding, the guilty can only be the law enforcement officials of Uzbekistan.
Dear Islam Karimov!
I ask you to ensure legitimacy. I ask to identify the law enforcement officials that threatened my family, wanting to interfere with my daughter’s wedding. I ask to hold them accountable.
Also, I ask to stop persecuting me for my journalistic activities.
Malokhat Eshonkulova, October 30, 2015