Dilarom Juraev was twenty-eight years old and six months pregnant when she began participating in this year's cotton harvest. She was told that unless she picked cotton, she would not be given the standard Uzbek child allowance once the baby was born. Just hours into the first day, she lost her baby after beginning to miscarry in the fields.
“In the morning we were taken to the fields by. We started to pick cotton, and after a short time Dilarom was in labor. Hearing this, the chiefs started panicking. Consequently the chairman brought Dilarom to the district hospital with his car. According to what we heard, Dilarom’s conditions were serious, and the doctors sent her to the regional hospital. When they arrived at the hospital the woman has had a miscarriage. They said it was a boy. After hearing what had happened, her mother-in-law cried a lot. The woman said that she was prepared for celebrating beshik-toyu (celebration devoted to the birth of the child – Ed.). Dilarom left the hospital on the same day, and the body of the baby was brought home. The woman has already been discharged from the hospital, and she is at home now” – said one of the residents of the Zarbdar district in an unrecorded interview with our radio reporter.
Dilarom lost her child on the very first day she picked cotton during the harvest. Although officials continue to claim that her participation was voluntary, reports from community members and those in the vicinity of the incident contradict those claims.
“Near Ismail gathered local police officers and representatives of the Khokimiyat. In total there were five of them. They said that every family had to send at least one person to the fields. They said it was an order from “above” and that everyone was obliged to follow it. These officials told mothers receiving child benefits that they would not receive any more money if they did not pick cotton” – told one source living in the Mustaqillik.
Uzbek authorities have denied responsibility for this tragedy, and paid a personal visit to Dilarom's family to pressure them to hold the government blameless as well. Though authorities in the region have suspended sending pregnant women to the fields since this incident, we are still receiving numerous reports from across the country that young mothers are threatened with losing their child benefits if they do not pick their cotton quota.
Information and Translated provided by Uzbek-German Forum
In the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan, citizens who live abroad and have come back to renew their passports may find themselves trapped in the country. In a report given to us by the Uzbek-German Forum, one Uzbek citizen recounted being told he had to pick cotton in the fields before being issued a new passport.
“My brother came back to Uzbekistan to change his outdated passport. So he paid a visit to our local police office that is located on A. Somiy Street (5th micro-district, Bukhara).
Information and translation provided by Uzbek-German Forum
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.
This article was originally published by the Solidarity Center on its website here.
By Tula O'Connell
The World Bank must convey to the Uzbek government that attacks against independent monitors assessing the extent of forced labor in the country’s cotton harvest will not be tolerated. The World Bank must also outline consequences should the attacks continue, according to the Cotton Campaign.
In a July 29 letter to key World Bank officials, the Cotton Campaign, a coalition of dozens of labor and human rights groups that includes the Solidarity Center, wrote:
“The World Bank should take all reasonable measures to create an enabling environment for independent actors to monitor projects that it finances. We have not seen the bank take such measures in Uzbekistan.”
The World Bank Group is providing more than $500 million in financing to the government of Uzbekistan for its agriculture sector and additional financing to multinational companies processing forced-labor cotton in Uzbekistan.
1 Million in Forced Labor During Cotton Harvests
During each fall cotton harvest, the Uzbekistan government forces more than 1 million teachers, nurses and others to pick cotton for weeks, deeply cutting services at schools and medical facilities. Last fall, the government went to extreme measures—including jailing and physically abusing those independently monitoring the process—to cover up its actions.
“The Uzbek government’s repression of human rights monitors has made it impossible for essential mitigation measures of monitoring and grievance redress to function,” according to the coalition, which sent the letter in advance of an early August roundtable meeting of the World Bank, the Uzbek government, the International Labor Organization and diplomatic missions in Uzbekistan.
The coalition also is requesting that the World Bank “obtain an enforceable commitment from the Uzbek government to allow independent journalists, organizations and individuals to have access to all World Bank project-affected areas and to monitor, document and report about forced labor without interference or fear of reprisal.”
Uzbekistan Downgraded in US Trafficking in Persons ReportIn June, an Uzbek victim of forced labor in cotton production and three human rights defenders filed a complaint against the World Bank’s private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). They seek an investigation into forced labor connected to a $40 million loan to Indorama Kokand Textile, which operates in Uzbekistan. The complaint presents evidence that the loan to expand the company’s cotton manufacturing facilities in Uzbekistan allows it to profit from forced labor and sell illicit goods.
Also in June, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, where forced labor in cotton harvests also is rampant, were downgraded to the lowest ranking in the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.
This article was originally published on the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights website here.
“When people’s rights to assemble and associate are restricted — whether by an environment of fear or intimidation, or by laws that cut off funding of independent groups — we stand no chance of designing development programs that actually meet the needs of poor communities.”
These words, recently expressed by Mr Maina Kiai, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, are of great value for me and my colleagues. We are the Uzbek activists documenting and reporting to the World Bank the labour rights situation in its project areas in Uzbekistan. My colleagues in the country are risking their lives to secure the fundamental human rights of our people. In response to violent state retaliation against them, the World Bank refuses to hold its member and client, the Uzbek government, accountable.
In June 2014, the World Bank approved a loan of $ 410,3 million for the “modernization of agriculture” of Uzbekistan, pledging to prevent the use of forced labour in the Bank’s lending areas.
The Bank’s decision followed a formal complaint from Uzbek citizens and finding by the World Bank Inspection Panel of a link between forced labour and Bank loans to the Uzbek government for agriculture. The Bank committed to (1) suspend loans if child or forced labor is found in World Bank-financed project sites; (2) establish third-party monitoring of labor practices; and (3) establish a grievance redress mechanism. Then it reneged on each commitment. The Bank refused to suspend the loans despite credible documentation that State-led, systematic, and widespread forced labour continued to exist at World Bank-finance project sites. The Bank established a joint ILO-Uzbek government monitoring mission after it learned the government would not accept fully independent third-party monitoring. The Bank did not establish a mechanism that would provide redress to victims of forced labour. Instead, the Bank established a “feedback mechanism” comprised of hotlines that could only be used to inform authorities of crimes, not guarantee victims access to effective remedies, and users of the hotlines were harassed and intimidated in retaliation for reporting.
While embracing the World Bank’s loans and joint monitoring with the ILO, the Uzbek government continued systematic forced labour and severely retaliated against citizens who reported forced labour. Officials arrested, beat and filed charges of “disorderly conduct” against Dmitry Tikhonov, the same day his home office was destroyed by arson, eventually forcing him to flee the country. Officials arrested Uktam Pardaev, confiscated his computer and files used for monitoring, then detained him for two months and subjected him to beatings, and released him on probation and the condition he would no longer report human rights concerns. Officials arrested Ms. Urlaeva five times, subjected her to body-cavity searches twice, and forcibly detained her in a psychological hospital. In each case officials harassed the human rights defenders in retaliation for their reporting of forced labor in the cotton sector.
Neither the World Bank nor the ILO has publicly condemned the violence against the human rights monitors.
Photo: Human Rights Defender Dmitry Tikhonov in his burned out house.
As UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai further outlines:
“When governments or private developers try to restrict participation in development projects or attack human rights activists, development banks must react strongly. They need to investigate the issue, publicly condemn the actors involved, use diplomacy, and take other necessary measures to ensure that the banks’ existing and future funding is not contributing to human rights abuses. In some cases, it may be necessary to cut off funding until improvements are made”.
The Uzbek government’s use of forced labour and repression continues this year. Officials have threatened and penalized farmers for not fulfilling production quotas for cotton and wheat, including a case in which officials harvested a farmer’s wheat and seized it while police held the farmer in an armoured vehicle. In April, the head of the Khazarasp district in the Khorezm region Uktam Kurbanov illegally seized a farmer’s land in retaliation for letting two Uzbek human rights activists, Elena Urlaeva and Malokhat Eshonkulova, stay at his place. Officials forced students and education and health-care workers to weed cotton fields. Since a presidential decree establishing a state-order system of production for horticulture, farmers and citizens have reported officials ordering them work to produce horticulture crops, raising concern about an extension of systematic and state-orchestrated coercion.
UGF Questions and the World Bank Answers
In June of this year, Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights sent request for an interview to the World Bank country manager for Uzbekistan Mr. Junghun Cho.
Reading the answers from the World Bank it is difficult to conclude how seriously the Bank takes its commitment to not tolerate the use of forced labour in its lending areas.
Here are the questions that UGF asked the Bank:
The World Bank allocates millions of US Dollars in loans to the agriculture sector of Uzbekistan which, according to our data, is based on the control and coercion of farmers to plant products by the order of the state. The World Bank’s new strategy includes a “modernization of the cotton sector” in Uzbekistan. Could you please explain whether the World Bank has developed clear benchmarks as well as a concrete time frame for the strategy which would induce the Uzbek government to take real steps to reform the country’s agriculture?
Our team of monitors has documented the Uzbek government’s annual use of forced labour to produce cotton for seven years now. 2015 was the first year in which the government had signed agreements with the World Bank determining that the use of forced labour in areas of active World Bank-funded projects in the agriculture and education sectors would be a reason for suspending the Bank’s loans. Our monitors reported evidence of officials forcing farmers to grow cotton and more than one million people to pick cotton throughout the country, including in World Bank project areas. Has the World Bank suspended its loans to the government? If not, why not, and what actions is the Bank intending to take to hold the government accountable for its commitments?
At the same time, the Uzbek government denies that it is forcing people to weed and pick cotton. Will the World Bank work towards the elimination of forced labour in the Uzbek cotton sector and develop a specific plan of cooperation with the government in this regard?
If the Uzbek government continues to use forced labour in the cotton sector on a massive scale, which steps will the World Bank take?
As we have reported to you, our independent monitors have faced unprecedented harassment since the World Bank has increased its investments in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. What is the World Bank doing to create a safe space for independent groups and individuals monitoring the working conditions in areas benefiting from World Bank projects?
Instead of answering the questions, the World Bank replied:
“Thank you for your letter. We respect and share your concerns regarding the risks of forced labor in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan. We recognize and appreciate the extensive efforts made by international and local NGOs and CSOs to date.”
“As you rightly noted, the World Bank Group has been a long term development partner of Uzbekistan, providing advice and financial support to improve the country’s economic and social development and financial management. The new World Bank Country Partnership Framework for 2016-2020 for Uzbekistan focuses on three priority areas: private sector growth, agriculture competitiveness and cotton sector modernization, and improved public service delivery. To support private sector growth, the World Bank Group will help improve the business environment and support private sector investments in the country. To encourage agriculture competitiveness and cotton sector modernization, the Bank Group will support changes towards a more remunerative, market-based, job intensive agriculture system, along with more sustainable management of land and water resources. To enhance public service delivery, we will support improved access to water supply and sanitation, increased quality of education and health services, as well as better transport services and urban development.”
“More specifically, the World Bank Group considers the reform of the agriculture sector and modernization of cotton production in Uzbekistan to be critically important for the overall grown in the country and improvement of people’s lives. Agriculture constitutes the main source of employment for the rural population. With scarce land and water assets, a growing population, climate change risks and volative export markets, modernization of the agriculture sector is vital to improve its performance and support its integration into a more open and competitive economy, while creating much needed jobs and contributing to shared prosperity.”
“In this respect, recent steps taken by the Uzbek authorities are indicative of a broader shift in agriculture, responding to both the challenges of the global economy and new market opportunities for horticulture and livestock products for neighboring markets. To advance this agenda, the Government issued a resolution to reduce areas under cotton production by 170,000 ha by 2020, including a significant decrease in the driest and least productive areas such as the Jizzakh and Syrdarya regions. The Government issued documents aimed to support organized marketing and exports of about one-fifth of horticulture produce in the coming year. We understand that the Government of Uzbekistan is also planning for a broader development of the horticulture sector through investments in storage, processing, logistics, and quality assurance infrastructure and capacities.”
“On the policy level, the World Bank is assisting the country in framing a vision for market-led agricultural transformation, which is environmentally and socially sustainable, as well as economically and financially viable. We are working together with the Ministry of Agriculture to establish a sound diagnostic of Uzbekistan’s agricultural potential and constraints. This means identifying the country’s comparative advantages and opportunities on local, regional and international markets, as well as analyzing the constraints and bottlenecks that should be tackled to transform the sector and improve its performance.”
“On the ground, the World Bank is already actively engaged in supporting a diversification agenda. More than 550 concessional loans were provided to the local farmers for the development of horticulture activities, such as orchards, vineyards and greenhouses. Agro-entrepreneurs are supported in the development of storage, packing and processing facilities. Under a World Bank-funded project in Ferghana Valley, the recent rehabilitation of more than 1,300 km of irrigation and drainage canals is now providing more reliable water supply to farmers who, in turn, are able to increase productivity and diversify to higher-value and less water intensive crops. Recently collected data shows that the smallholder farmers have been able to increase orchard productivity by 68% and to diversify into other legume and vegetable crops by 15%.
“As we have stated previously, we are seriously concerned about the reports that some civil society activists in Uzbekistan have been detained while monitoring the use of labor in the cotton harvest. When allegations of reprisals are brought to our attention, we work with appropriate parties, within the scope of our mandate, to address them. We will continue monitoring the situation closely together with the ILO and other relevant UN bodies and will convey our concerns regarding the alleged harassment of independent monitors to the Government of Uzbekistan.”
“Finally, we would like to reiterate, the World Bank does not condone forced labor in any form and takes seriously the reports of such practices in the cotton production system in Uzbekistan. We believe that the most effective way to address the issue in Uzbekistan is to use a holistic approach through continuous country dialogue and collaboration with international agencies and donors, NGO and CSO community and through sector analytic work and policy dialogue, and specific project-level interventions. One of our main objectives is to help achieve a modernization of the agriculture sector that creates more jobs and higher income along with liberalization of the system of cotton production so that both the pressure for and risks of forced labor in this sector are reduced as far as possible in Uzbekistan”
Notably, the World Bank once again refuses to acknowledge the Uzbek government’s use of forced labour and its very real and not simply “alleged” retaliation against our monitors. Astonishingly after articulating a broad vision of a new Uzbek economy, the Bank’s goal concerning state-orchestrated forced labor is “reduced as far as possible.”
The Bank should consult with Mr. Kai and recognize that the repression by the Uzbek government removes all chance of development that meets the needs of the Uzbek people. The Bank’s members should recognize that its loans will continue to be linked to forced labor in Uzbekistan until the government ceases retaliating against citizens who report such violations of the law and until the government is held accountable for its use of coercion to mobilize labor for agriculture production, cotton and otherwise. Monitoring and complaint hotlines don’t work without protection for the people who report violations, and reform doesn’t happen if the government knows it will receive funding despite breaking its commitments.
 Maina Kiai, It’s Time for Development Bank to start Listening, Foreign Policy, 19 July 2016, available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/19/its-time-for-development-banks-to-start-listening-maina-kiai/
This article was originally published by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations here.
21 июля МИД Великобритании опубликовал доклад о положении прав человека в Узбекистане по состоянию на январь-июнь 2016 года. Ситуация с правами человека в стране остается неизменной в течении последних шести месяцев: сохраняются препятствия для свободы слова, объединения и вероисповедания, не устранено противоправное обращение с арестантами. По-прежнему актуальна проблема принудительного труда – Узбекистан входит в список из пяти стран с наибольшим числом рабов.
В документе приводятся актуальные данные международных организаций о высоком уровне коррупции в Узбекистане, а также несколько знаковых дел о преследовании правозащитников. Правительство страны преследует каждого, кто решается собирать информацию и документы о системе принудительного труда на добыче хлопка. На правозащитников обрушиваются обыски и аресты, они получают длительные тюремные сроки и подвергаются пыткам.
Так, в январе 2016 года представитель Организации по Правам Человека в Джизаке и член независимой группы по мониторингу сбора хлопка Уктам Пардаев был приговорен к трем годам условно в отместку за свою мирную правозащитную деятельность. Следующие несколько лет он будет вынужден жить под постоянным контролем служб безопасности с ограниченной возможностью для работы и передвижения.
Уктам Пардаев был арестован 16 ноября 2015 по обвинению в мошенничестве и получении взяток. В предварительном заключении его избивали, пытаясь заставить сознаться в якобы совершенных им преступлениях. Пардаев также стал свидетелем того, как полицейские пытали других заключенных и издевались над ними, чтобы получить признательные показания. IUF проводит кампанию за освобождение и снятие всех обвинений с Уктама Пардаева. Вы можете подписать петицию на этой странице.
В январе этого года также стало известно о смерти Акрам Юлдашева, которого власти называют лидером движения «Акромия» и организатором восстания в Андижане в 2005 году. Последние несколько лет Акрам Юлдашев находился в тюрьме в полной изоляции без права на встречи с родственниками. Реальные причины его смерти в заключении остаются неизвестными.
В феврале джизакский фермер-рыбовод Арамаис Авакян был осужден на 7 лет заключения за «экстремистскую» деятельность в рамках некой религиозной организации. Он был взят под стражу в сентябре 2015 года. Фермер и четверо осужденных вместе с ним мужчин заявляли о пытках во время следствия. Адвокат Авакяна Одил Кобилов также был задержан и осужден на семь лет заключения по обвинению во взяточничестве и мошенничестве. В мае 2016 года Постоянный совет ОБСЕ принял и зарегистрировал заявление Евросоюза по случаю Авакяна и Кобилова, после чего в июне Кобилов был освобожден.
В июне региональному представителю «Международного Комитета в защиту прав личности» по Ферганской области 65-летнему Ганихону Маматханову продлили срок заключения на 3 года за «неповиновение требованиям администрации учреждения по исполнению наказания». 31 мая 2016 года открыли уголовное дело по статье 221 Уголовного Кодекса, часть 2, пункт «а», как «особо опасной рецидивист», ему грозит до пяти лет лишения свободы.
Напомним, в сентябре 2015 года полиция арестовала Елену Урлаеву, возглавляющую «Альянс за права человека в Узбекистане» («Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan»), а также ее мужа и несовершеннолетнего сына, когда женщина фотографировала и брала интервью у работников, собирающих хлопок в Ташкентской области. Суд назначил ей принудительное лечение в психиатрической больнице, где на протяжении 87 дней она подвергалась унижениям со стороны персонала. Урлаева была освобождена в начале июня 2016 года. Ранее, в мае 2015 года правозащитница была схвачена, допрошена и жестоко избита сотрудниками полиции за документирование принудительной мобилизации работников медицины и образования на хлопковые поля.
В сентябре 2015 года полиция арестовала и избила правозащитника Дмитрия Тихонова, который фотографировал группы людей, отправлявшихся под надзором правительственных чиновников на хлопковые поля. В марте того же года был арестован и депортирован международный консультант по трудовым правам Андрей Мрост, занимавшийся подготовкой к мониторингу искоренения детского и принудительного труда.
This article was originally published by Tula Connell on the Solidarity Center blog here.
An Uzbek victim of forced labor in cotton production and three human rights defenders filed a complaint against the World Bank’s private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), according to a coalition of human rights groups.
The June 30 complaint seeks an investigation into forced labor connected to a $40 million loan to Indorama Kokand Textile, which operates in Uzbekistan. The forced labor victim, who requested confidentiality, and the rights defenders Dmitry Tikhonov, Elena Urlaeva and a third who requested confidentiality, presented evidence that the loan to expand the company’s cotton manufacturing facilities in Uzbekistan allows it to profit from forced labor and sell illicit goods.
“The IFC should support sustainable rural development in Uzbekistan, not projects that perpetuate the government’s forced-labor system for cotton production,” says Tikhonov, who lives is in exile in France following possible retaliation--including the burning of his home—for his efforts to document forced labor in Uzbekistan.
“The ombudsman should investigate the IFC loan to Indorama, which we believe violates international law and the IFC’s own policies prohibiting forced labor.” The Cotton Campaign, the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, the International Labor Rights Forum, and Human Rights Watch jointly announced the complaint.
1 Million in Forced Labor Each Year
Each year, the Uzbek government, which controls all of the country’s cotton production and sales, forces more than 1 million teachers, nurses and others to pick cotton for weeks. Last year, the government went to extreme measures—including jailing and physically abusing researchers independently monitoring the process—to cover up its actions.
Uzbekistan was downgraded to the lowest ranking in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report which was released last month.
The World Bank has invested more than $500 million in Uzbekistan’s agricultural sector. Following a complaint from Uzbek civil society, the bank attached loan covenants stipulating that the loans could be stopped and subject to repayment if forced or child labor was detected in project areas by monitors from the International Labor Organization (ILO), contracted by the World Bank to carry out labor monitoring during the harvest.
The World Bank approved the loan to Indorama in December 2015, despite an ILO report reaffirming the problem of forced labor.
In March, Cotton Campaign, a coalition of labor and human rights groups that includes the Solidarity Center, presented a petition signed by more than 140,000 people from around the world to World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, calling on the bank to suspend lending to the agriculture sector in Uzbekistan until the Uzbek government changes its policy of forced labor in the cotton industry.
Read the complaint here.
This article originally appeared on UGF, June 29, 2016, here.
The khokim (head) of the Kushtepa district in the Ferghana region Bahrom Djumanov locked up local farmers in a bus, and then decided to check their fields. The district prosecutor, together with the police chief and the governor, insulted and beat farmers whose fields did not meet the requirements of the local authorities.
According to “Radio Ozodlik” (the Uzbek service of Radio “Liberty”), on the first days of June, Bahrom Djumanov gathered farmers from the whole area in a bus and drove them across the fields.
According to one of the farmers who witnessed the incident farmers whose fields were overgrown with weeds, were insulted and beaten by local officials.
"One day they drove us farmers to one location, the next day to another. In the bus were the khokim, the prosecutor and the police chief. If a field was out of order, the three officials abused, beat and then pushed farmers off the bus”, one of the local farmers who asked not to disclose his name told “Radio Ozodlik”.
But this was not yet the end of problems for the farmers.
According to a witness, the bus was followed by a “Damas” car with police escort. The policemen took the farmers who had been pushed out of the bus in the police car. I saw with my own eyes what they did to farmer Alijon in the Yassavi district. He was taken to the police department and locked up there. Two days ago, he felt sick and a doctor came. The doctor gave him an injection, and after that the farmer was released”, a local farmer told “Radio Ozodlik”.
Another farmer from the Kushtepa district told “Radio Ozodlik” who wished to remain anonymous that assaulting farmers by a khokim was commonplace.
“I personally saw how a khokim insulted and beat farmers Askarali from ‘Pakhtakor MTP farming‘ and Murodilla from ‘Yassavi farming’, said a farmer from the Kushtepa district in the Ferghana region.
“Radio Ozodlik” asked the Qo’shtepa District administration for a comment on these accusations. The official who introduced himself as the khokim’s assistant Solijon confirmed that an action called “Bus” had taken place. But he said that all questions could be answered only by the head of the district. He recorded the telephone number of the editorial office of “Radio Ozodlik”. However, “Radio Ozodlik” did not receive a call from the head of Qo’shtepa District.
Source: “Как наказывают узбекских фермеров: «Сначала их заперли в автобусе, а затем избили”, http://rus.ozodlik.org/content/article/27790816.html, 11.06.2016
This article originally appeared on EL Tuz, July 5, 2016, here.
Aggressive cotton worms threaten this year's harvest and the latest downgrading in the US annual Trafficking Report brings bad publicity for the country
Teachers and doctors in the eastern Uzbek Fergana Region have been forcibly taken to the cotton fields to collect worms. They are picking worms from the cotton plants by hand. The news coincided with the release of an annual report by the US Department of State on 30 June presenting the latest findings in the fight against human trafficking in which Uzbekistan has been downgraded to the lowest ranking this year.
It was reported that the deputy governor of the region Tolqinoy Tojiyeva, who is also responsible for women’s affairs, visited all districts and called on teachers and doctors to go to the cotton fields and help the farmers.
“Some sort of aggressive worm is attacking the cotton plants,” said one of them. According to the farmer, each school had to allocate 10 staff members every day for this campaign. He added that Tolqinoy Tojiyeva had held a meeting at the school where she stressed that cotton was the national wealth and symbol of Uzbekistan that brought fortune to the state and had further called on teachers and doctors to help to protect it. In reality, she had not asked but demanded this.
Failed biological method in the fight against worms
Technically, a center under the patronage of the Uzbek Ministry of Agriculture and Water would deal with issues such as pest control. However, a correspondent of Eltuz.com found out from experts at the center that the biological method was not effective. The experts said that there were four to ten biological laboratories in each district.
An expert of one of the biological laboratories said that their method of fighting the cotton worms was effective only during the initial phase of the worms’ development.
Uzbekistan rated poorly on the basis of its ongoing forced labour practice
The campaign of forcibly mobilizing teachers and doctors to remove the cotton worms coincided with the release of a report on the latest developments in the fight against human trafficking where Uzbekistan has been added on tier 3, the blacklist of those states not putting much effort to control human trafficking and forced labour.
On 30 June, the US Department of State released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. It reveals that Uzbekistan’s efforts in combatting human trafficking were not enough to avoid the downgrading to Tier 3 , the lowest ranking among the 188 investigated countries.
The report notes the increase in the number of attacks on activists who conducted monitoring during the cotton-picking campaign in Uzbekistan in 2015. It further annotates that, although Uzbekistan has laws prohibiting the use of forced labour, the government is violating these laws itself. The report finds that, consequently, the system of forced labour remains unchanged in Uzbekistan, and that under the threats of punishment, dismissal from jobs, depriving of social benefits and dismissal of students from universities, at least one million people were involved in forced labour.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty here.
Thirteen media and human rights organizations have sent a joint letter to the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, calling for the release of freelance journalist Saparmamed Nepeskuliev. Nepeskuliev, who contributed to both RFE/RL's Turkmen Service and Alternative Turkmenistan News, has been kept in incommunicado detention since July 7, 2015, when he disappeared while visiting the Caspian Sea resort city of Avaza. Convicted in closed proceedings on fabricated charges of narcotics possession on August 31, 2015, nothing has been heard from or about Nepeskuliev since September 2015.
The text of that letter follows:
June 30, 2016
His Excellency Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow
President of the Republic of Turkmenistan
c/o H.E. Meret Orazov, Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Turkmenistan in the U.S.
2207 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dear President Berdimuhamedow:
July 7, 2016 marks one year since Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, a freelance journalist who contributed to RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service and Alternative Turkmenistan News, has been in custody. For much of that time he has been in incommunicado detention. We the undersigned, are writing to call for an end to his wrongful imprisonment and urge his prompt release.
Prior to his disappearance, Mr. Nepeskuliev reported on economic development, infrastructure, social services, and education in Turkmenistan’s western regions with the aim of informing citizens about challenges facing their communities and of helping them to improve their lives. He went missing in Avaza on July 7, 2015 and, after three weeks, on July 28, his family learned that he was being detained in a prison in Akdash. On August 31, 2015, in closed proceedings, Mr. Nepeskuliev was convicted on fabricated charges of narcotics possession and sentenced to three years in prison by a Turkmenbashi city court.
In light of concerns expressed by the UN Human Rights Committee about conditions in detention in Turkmenistan and the risk of ill-treatment including torture (See the Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/TKM/CO/1, para. 9), we fear for Mr. Nepeskuliev’s health and safety. We have not been able to obtain any information about Mr. Nepeskuliev’s welfare since September 2015. Our concern for Mr. Nepeskuliev is intensified by our recollection of the fate of Ogulsapar Muradova, an RFE/RL contributor who died in a Turkmen prison under suspicious circumstances in September 2006.
Mr. Nepeskuliev’s case has been reviewed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in December 2015 designated his detention “arbitrary” because he “has been held incommunicado with no access to a legal representative; he was deprived of his right to legal assistance of his own choosing” and he “has been deprived of liberty for having peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The Working Group called for his release and that he be compensated.
Numerous rights groups and NGOs have protested Mr. Nepeskuliev’s detention, and called on EU officials to raise his case during the recent EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue in May.
As representatives of our respective organizations and leaders of the international NGO community, Mr.President, we are committed to promoting and protecting the same international conventions and standards guaranteeing international law and human rights that Turkmenistan has pledged to uphold. Mr.Nepeskuliev’s conviction on trumped-up charges and his incommunicado detention are violations of his rights as guaranteed by Turkmenistan’s constitution and its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkmenistan is a party. We call for his immediate release.
Thomas Burr, President, National Press Club
Ivar Dale, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Matthew Fischer-Daly, Coordinator, Cotton Campaign
Judy Gearhart, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Forum
Delphine Halgand, U.S. Director, Reporters Without Borders
Robert Herman, PhD, Vice President for International Programs, Freedom House
Ryota Jonen, Director, World Movement for Democracy
Thomas Kent, President, RFE/RL, Inc.
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director (Research), Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Amnesty International
Ruslan Myatiev, Editor, Alternative Turkmenistan News
Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists
Kate Watters, Executive Director, Crude Accountability
Hugh Williamson, Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch