Labor Abuses In Uzbekistan's Cotton Fields
Published 30 January 2013
Uzbek authorities have increased the use of forced labor by adults and older children in the cotton sector during the past year in an effort to shift the burden away from younger children in response to public scrutiny and international pressure. Human Rights Watch found that for the 2012 harvest, the Uzbek government forced over 1 million of its own citizens -- children and adults, including its teachers, doctors, and nurses – to harvest cotton in abusive conditions on threat of punishment. Uzbek authorities refused to allow international monitors into the country for the fourth year in a row and arrested and intimidated local activists and independent journalists who attempted to report on the forced labor situation. (9 PHOTOS)
A “Cotton Contract” is shown from the 2011 harvest. The “contract” obligates the signer to participate in the harvest, with punishment for “not fulfilling the commands,” including meeting a daily quota.
A child picks cotton in September 2012, Suyima Pakhtakor, Jizzakh.
Boy picking cotton, October 2012
A woman who identified herself as a teacher picks cotton in Jizzakh Province on September 25, 2012.
Students, ages 16 to 18, from the Transportation College of Tashkent sent to pick cotton in the Komil district of Jizzakh Province play volleyball in front of the barracks where they will stay until their quota is fully harvested. Refusing participation is not an option; students are threatened with expulsion from school.
The College of Construction and Communal Services, Tashkent region, is closed for the cotton harvest. Students age 16 and up attend these “colleges.”
Defoliants are sprayed while workers harvest cotton nearby.
A typical barracks adjacent to the cotton fields where adults and children live during the cotton harvest. Workers sleep on the floors and in many cases do not have access to potable water.
At each cotton field, like this one in Tashkent Province, police are present or notified if anyone comes to take photos or interview people. The authorities frequently harass Uzbek human rights defenders when they try to monitor the cotton harvest.