Despite government claims to have “banned” forced child labor, Uzbekistan’s children are not been spared their annual mandatory work in the cotton fields this year. And once again, the government, through the local education departments, is the one forcing them to go.
Reports from at least six of Uzbekistan’s twelve regions (Andijan, Bukhara, Jizakh, Khorezm, Syr Darya and Surkhandarya so far) indicate that children as young as twelve are already out in the fields and have been since mid-September. Fergana.ru has reported that pupils in the Fergana province have been told they will not have to pick cotton this year, but elsewhere in the Fergana valley (Andijan province) pupils have already been forced out of school.
Across the provinces where independent journalists and human rights activists have been reporting so far, students at higher educational institutions (17-18 and up) have been solidly mobilized as well as students at so-called “colleges” (high schools), who are generally 14-17 years old. But the upper grades of elementary school have been recruited as well, which sounds like a bad sign coming this early in the season. Last year, it took a few weeks into the harvest before reports started to emerge in most places that elementary school kids were forced out of class to work; later in the season, whole classes of 7-8 year olds were also picking cotton instead of in school.
Read the first-hand reportage via the links below.
On Andijan: http://ca-news.org/news/220861 (in Russian, subscription required); http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/1826701.html (in Uzbek)
On Khorezm: http://www.ferghana.ru/news.php?id=13035&mode=snews (in Russian)
On Syr Darya: http://www.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=6316 (in Russian), http://enews.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=2576 (in English)
On Surkhandarya: http://www.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=6309 (in Russian); http://enews.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=2575 (in English)