Dmitry Tikhonov, a human rights defender in the city of Angren, has appealed to Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov to stop breaking the law and end the exploitation of children in the cotton harvest, the independent website uznews.net reported.
“I addressed my demands to Rustam Azimov because he is personally responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Cabinet of Ministers’ Resolution No.207 of 12th September 2008,” Tikhonov told uznews.net.
Earlier this year at the start of the cotton harvest, Angren authorities posted flyers around the city stating that the use of forced child labour was against the law, uznews.net reported.
But the leaflet also carried a propaganda twist -- it denounced the "mendacious insinuations and misinformation" of foreign media about allegations of widespread forced labour.
In fact, through the efforts of monitors this season, once again massive use of forced child labour has been documented throughout Uzbekistan.
The flyer carried a threat -- "any attempts to force children to work, whether by threatening reprisals against the children themselves or their parents, will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of Uzbekistan."
Parents said the flyer was too little, too late. By the time it was posted, their kids were already out in the fields. Decree 207 was designed to implement Uzbekistan's obligations in ratifying the conventions of the International Labour Organisation regarding the worst forms of child labour. Activists say that little attention is paid to the decree, however; while it is published on the Internet, it is not broadcast or printed in Uzbekistan.
One good thing is that parents can now cite this law -- if they dare, given the possible reprisals.
Tikhonov decided to take up the issue of the non-enforcement of Decree No. 207, and wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Azimov complaining about the forcible recruitment of vocational and high school students to pick cotton. He was particularly disturbed by the practice of parents paying large bribes of up to $120 to get their children out of the harvest. They were too afraid to protest.
Tikhonov, a member of the Human Rights Alliance, also protested the failure to publish the law. The human rights advocate himself has faced reprisals for his work. In 2010, he was approached by strangers on the street who asked why he was writing on the Internet -- then hit him over the head with an iron bar. For some time he was denied an exit visa -- still required for travel outside of Uzbekistan. He publicized his case and eventually was granted permission, and then was later able to return home.