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.
Patricia Jurewicz, director of the Responsible Sourcing Network, a project of As You Sow, has an op-ed piece at ethicalcorp.com, Time to Drive Child Labour From Value Chains:
During the recent International Cotton and Textile Fair in Tashkent, not a single western buyer signed a contract for Uzbekistan’s cotton, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. This boycott demonstrates the strength of a pledge signed by more than 60 apparel manufacturers, brands and retailers to eliminate forced child labour in the cotton industry.
Jurewicz writes of the growing consumer demand for transparency:
Having buy-in throughout the entire global value chain, where all of the dots are connected, is essential. The time of transparency has come. Consumers and legislation are demanding it.
Consumers are demanding to know more about the goods they are purchasing and, thankfully, new technologies are being adopted to give this information to them right at the point of purchase.
US legislation is also starting to demand more transparency.
Read more here.
A human rights leader in Uzbekistan says she is suffering backlash for her work.
Police have come to the home of Elena Urlaeva of the Human Rights Alliance in Tashkent and attempted to remove her 7-year-old foster child, Muhammad, the independent website uznews.net reported.
The aim of the visit was quite simple: he [the policeman] said he had been asked to take Muhammad Mashurov away to a children’s home. But he didn’t show me any proof that he had the right to take a child away from their family. It never occurred to me that a small child could be made a victim of such an unlawful and arbitrary procedure.
The boy is the nephew of Urlayeva's partner, Mansur Mashurov.
In recent months, Urlaeva has been monitoring the use of forced child labor in the cotton fields and has taken on other injustices in this Central Asian dictatorship, such as the persecution of journalists.
From Choihona at EurasiaNet.org
An article about the decline of health care in Uzbekistan at EurasiaNet opens with an explanation for one of the devastating impacts on health care every year during the cotton season: all the medical personnel are forced out to the fields, leaving their clinics behind:
By the time Saidburkhan, a traditional healer from a small Uzbek town in the Ferghana Valley, arrived at work on a recent autumn day, his private clinic specializing in herbal medicine was packed. Three blocks away, a government-run hospital was empty – most doctors and nurses, under pressure from local authorities, were out in the cotton fields, fulfilling government harvest quotas.