Demonstrators in France turned out on January 30th, President Islam Karimov's 74th birthday, to call attention to the dictator's many human rights violations.
The activists picked the Uzbek Embassy in Paris, but embassy staff refused to accept their petition or meet with the protesters, says fergananews.com.
Among the protesters were members of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, the Association of Christians Against the Death Penalty and Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, the Fiery Hearts Club. They called for the release of all political prisoners in Uzbekistan.
Protest signs including a satirical poster (see above) showing Karimov's face beaming like the sun over a toiling child forced to pick cotton and the slogan, "Work, Sonny, the Sun is Still High!"
You have to dig to the last page of a specialized newsletter -- but it's there -- the new UNICEF-Uzbekistan Newsletter contains a single paragraph at the bottom of the final page of the newsletter on forced child labour:
During the period of 17 to 22 September 2011, 6 teams consisting of 14 UNICEF staff members visited cotton fields in Fergana, Namangan, Andijan, Navoi, Bhukara, Khorezm, Karakalpakstan, Samarkand, Jizzak, Tashkent, Surkhandarya, and Kashkadarya regions. UNICEF’s observations regarding the use of children in the cotton fields were shared in the form of an update and a final report with the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. UNICEF continues to act and advocate at all levels of governance and society for the progressive elimination of child labour in cotton production.
The statement is couched in cautious terms so as not to actually make a formal finding and a condemnation about forced child labour.
Instead, UNICEF prefers to speak in positive terms about the "progressive elimination" of child labour.
While UNICEF quietly provides copies of its reports to the US and other governments, the report is not made available to the public.
A new film about forced child labour in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan was released in December.
Speaking Cotton, a film by Stefanie Trambow and Erik Malchow, portrays the ongoing exploitation of children in Uzbekistan's cotton fields. In German and Russian, with English subtitles.