A young Uzbek schoolboy returning home at night from the cotton fields where he had laboured all day was struck by a car and seriously injured last month, and remains in a coma, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) reports.
Bakhodir Pardaev, age 13, a 7th-grader at School No. 24 in the Chirakchi district in Kashkadarya province was run over by a car in mid-September while returning home with other schoolchildren from the cotton fields, AHRCA reports.
Human rights monitors have condemned the practice of forced child labour in Uzbekistan, and have repeatedly warned about the poor conditions middle-school children must work in. Accidents like this have happened before as groups of children are compelled to walk along highways at night from the fields.
Bakhodir was struck by a car at the 12th kilometer of the Hirakchi-Karshi highway driven by Bakhtiyor Yakhshiboev. With Bakhktiyor in the vehicle was his brother, Jalol Yakhshiboev, who happens to be a reporter at the Kashkadarya provincial state television station.
Bakhodir was sent in September along with his classmates to pick cotton at the Sokhibkor Farm owned by Usanov Eshdavlat located several kilometers from his school.
The boy was rushed to the local emergency room with a ruptured spinal cord, a fracture of his right jaw, a broken arm and leg and injury to the right side of his upper body. He has remained in a coma, and was eventually transferred to the neurological ward at the Karshi provincial hospital on September 26.
Makhbuba Ergasheva, the mother of Bakhodir, called on the local prosecutor to launch an investigation into the accident, but no action has been taken.
According to local sources, the journalist enjoys the protection of the local khokim or mayor, Nuriddin Zainiev, and authorities may be blocking an investigation into the accident caused by the journalist's brother.
National Security Service officers have been guarding the hospital to prevent any leak of information about the condition of the boy, and the heartbroken parents have been forbidden to contact human rights defenders or independent journalists, says AHRCA.