Human Trafficking: U.S. Decisions Fails Forced Labor Victims:
Turkmenistan placement supports state-sponsored forced labor
Washington, DC, July 27, 2015: The government of Turkmenistan uses widespread and systematic forced labor to produce cotton and deserves to be in the lowest category of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, said the Cotton Campaign in a letter to the U.S. State Department today. The decision to place Turkmenistan in a higher category only serves to perpetuate the abuse, the letter stated.
A new report by Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) documented the Turkmen government’s mobilization of tens of thousands of citizens, mainly civil servants and all under threat of punishment, to pick cotton. Authorities also force farmers to meet annual production quotas. Furthermore, the report presents evidence of state-orchestrated forced labor for street cleaning, landscaping and domestic work in public officials’ homes. The Turkmen government’s denial of freedom of expression has obliged monitors to report on its use of forced labor from outside the country.
“The Turkmen government has maintained a dark cloud of secrecy over its human rights abuses for far too long,” said Ruslan Myatiev, editor at Alternative Turkmenistan News. “Turkmenistan may be a small country, but it is the world’s seventh-largest cotton exporter and manufactures garments in-country for major Western brands. It is time the United States increased its pressure on Ashgabat to end its facilitation of human trafficking.”
The United States should make clear to Turkmenistan that ceasing forced labor in the cotton sector and permitting its citizens to monitor for labor rights violations without fear of retaliation are minimum steps to avoid a downgrade in 2016.