This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor of The New York Times on January 2, 2014:
“In Uzbekistan, the Practice of Forced Labor Lives On During the Cotton Harvest” (news article, Dec. 18) exposes the Uzbek government’s systematic use of forced labor to grow and harvest cotton. The recent successful efforts by the Cotton Campaign to press the Uzbek government to curtail the use of young children in the forced-labor scheme should be celebrated. Yet it is alarming to read that again this year, the government continued to brazenly force Uzbek farming families to grow cotton, force older children and adults to pick the cotton, punish anyone who refused to follow orders and detain human rights defenders and journalists attempting to report the crimes to the outside world.
Unfortunately, with Uzbekistan among the world’s largest producers of cotton, we can expect that store shelves in the United States and Europe will continue to be stocked with apparel that contains cotton from forced labor until the Obama administration and governments around the world take serious steps to hold accountable Uzbek government officials and companies like Daewoo International that profit from the government’s forced-labor scheme.
Washington, Dec. 19, 2013
The writer is director of policy and legal programs for the International Labor Rights Forum.