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.