Thousands of university students in Uzbekistan are being mobilized to help with the annual cotton harvest and some say they are working under abusive conditions, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
The harvest lasts from the beginning of the academic year in September until late autumn and only students at prestigious universities in Tashkent are exempt from taking part.
The use of student and child labor to pick cotton violates state and international labor laws. Uzbek authorities have for years denied using students and young children in the country's cotton harvest, which is of paramount importance to the Uzbek economy.
Some students from the medical school in Andijon have told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that they are being forced to work in cotton fields under draconian conditions.
The students said they are allowed only four hours of sleep a night and are required to fulfill a daily quota of 100 kilograms of cotton picked per student.
"We don't have normal drinking water," one student said. "They wake us up whenever they want and force us to go out to the field."
The students added that their superior, Husan Mamadiev, uses obscenities to reprimand those who can't meet the quota.
Mamadiev denied the allegations about his conduct when contacted by RFE/RL. He said the daily norm of 100 kilograms was set by his superiors, not by him.
Javlon Toghaev, a former student at the economics faculty at Gulistan City University, told RFE/RL that he is one of numerous students who was expelled from his university for failing to pick the daily norm during last year's harvest.