On September 14, a funeral was held for a farmer from Murzrabot district in the Surkhandarya region, who committed suicide, the Uzbek Service of the BBC reported.
According to accounts from other farmers and villagers, Ismail Turanazarov, age 50, had been reprimanded at a meeting in Murzrabot about the cotton harvest by the head of Surkhandarya region for failing to meet the daily state quota. Turanazarov was even arrested for 24 hours, which then served as the motivation for his desperate act. Although officials in Surkhandarya deny this account, human rights activists are saying that the pressures and harsh treatment of farmers unable to meet their quotas can be seen throughout Uzbekistan.
Farmers from Murzrabot describe the meeting on the cotton harvest that took place on September 12 with Turobjon Zhurayev, head of the Surkhandarya region. Zhurayev asked farmers who had not fulfilled their quotas to stand and then began berating them. After the meeting, the official ordered Turanazarov, another resident, Ziyodulla Kuldasheva, and three other farmers put in jail. After being held in the isolation cell for a day, Turanazarov returned home and wrote a suicide note and then killed himself. In his note, he blamed local authorities for the fact that he could not meet the quota, and said that as a farmer, he had not received timely financial support and fuel and that when he had appealed to the authorities for help with his problem, he still received nothing.
A criminal investigation has been opened into Turanazarov's death. Uzbek human rights activists have commented on the extreme sensitivity of the farmer’s case, and have surmised that an official conclusion about his death will most likely not be publicized, and that likely no mention will be made that the government’s cotton policey was at fault. No mention will be made of the fact that farmers in Uzbekistan are not free to chose what to grow, or that the quotas for grain and cotton are the reason for many troubles in previous years. In 1996, a woman farmer from Jizzak who had her crops confiscated even after fulfilling the state grain quota threw herself under a combine.
Both local and foreign observers have noted that the chief problem for farmers is their treatment by state agencies. Although the government claims to protect farmers, in fact, officials create difficulties for sowing and harvesting, causing many to give up farming. The inability to get fuel in a timely manner, and even the inability to withdraw cash from their own bank accounts are some of the difficulties farmers face. Despite internationall criticism, Uzbekistan continues to offer a rather low wholesale price for cotton and grain; this year, when a kilogram of grain was valued at 2000 soums (about US $1.50), farmers were paid only several hundred soums by the state (about 10 cents).