Global Day of Action to End Forced Labor in the Cotton Sector in Uzbekistan
September 30, 2014
Today, Cotton Campaign coalition activists around the world delivered a petition signed by 2,700 concerned people around the globe calling on them to do just that. In Tashkent, the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan delivered the petition at the Uzbek Ministry of Education in Tashkent. In Berlin, Paris, London and Washington, the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Solidarity Center, International Labor Rights Forum, Human Rights Watch, Anti-Slavery International, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia delivered the petition to the Uzbek Embassies and Consulates.
The message is clear: Uzbek teachers and students should be in classrooms, not cotton fields. Uzbek doctors and nurses should treating patients, not picking cotton. The elderly and single mothers should not have to pick cotton to avoid losing welfare support. The government of Uzbekistan, as the sole organizer and beneficiary of this forced-labor cotton harvest, could return them to classrooms where they belong. The Uzbek government must end the forced-labor system.
Preliminary reports from the 2014 harvest mobilization indicate the Uzbek government continues its use of forced labor. The Prime Minister officially announced the beginning of the harvest on September 8. Since, authorities have coercively mobilized public-sector workers, particularly teachers, doctors and nurses, on a larger scale than previous years. All universities and institutes of higher learning have been shut down so professors and students can participate in a mandatory 40-day shift picking cotton. Other public institutions are required to ensure 40 to 70 percent of staff are in the fields at any given time. Education has ceased entirely in some parts of the country as teachers fulfill their cotton quotas.
The signatories to this petition join more than 300,000 people around the world who have called for the end of the forced-labor system of cotton production in Uzbekistan in the last two years.