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Kids At Work In Uzbekistan's Cotton Fields
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For years, Uzbek authorities have denied widespread reports that children are sent to the fields to pick cotton every harvest season.

Now viewers can see for themselves, thanks to video footage collected by human rights activists and sent to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. There is no denying that the school-age children in the video are picking cotton and carrying heavy sacks on their shoulders. Determining whether they were taken away from their studies or forced to work in the fields proves more difficult.

The human rights activists who provided the video, whose identities are being withheld for their protection, said one of the children identified himself as 10-year-old Otabek. Others look even younger.

Human-rights defenders and the region's independent media, including the news website, have reported that the children, as well as teenagers and college students, were all forced by the state to help harvest the country's most valuable agricultural product.

Schools and colleges have been shut down in most parts of the country since mid-September, when the harvest season begins.

The footage was shot in Uzbekistan's major cotton-producing regions, including the Ferghana Valley, Karakalpakistan Autonomous Republic, and the Khorezm and Qashqadaryo provinces.

One of the world's major cotton producers, Uzbekistan has long been criticized for using what rights activist say is child labor during the two-month harvest season.

The widespread criticism has led some 60 clothing companies, including Gap, H&M, and Marks & Spencer to boycott Uzbek cotton until the country ends its practice of using children as cheap labor.

In September, the organizers of a New York fashion show canceled a runway presentation by Gulnora Karimova, the daughter of President Islam Karimov, amid protests by activists who claim her collection was made with Uzbek cotton harvested by children.

This week is the tail end of this year's cotton harvest, and children are heading back to school to resume their studies.

-- Shukhrat Bobojonov and Farangis Najibullah

Natalya Gulevichin Moscow's Tversk district court on November 22
MOSCOW -- A Moscow court has prolonged for a further six months the detention of ailing businesswoman Natalya Gulevich, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Gulevich's lawyer, Andrei Shtanko, told RFE/RL that the Taganka district court's decision is tantamount to a death sentence for his client.

Gulevich, who has been charged with financial fraud, was hospitalized one week ago with kidney failure.

Shtanko said Gulevich is scheduled to be transferred from a Moscow health clinic to a pretrial detention center on December 1.

Gulevich was arrested 10 months ago. The reports that her health was deteriorating sparked concern among human rights activists in light of the death of a teacher in a Moscow detention center last month.

Andrei Kudoyarov, 48, a secondary-school teacher, died of an apparent heart attack while in custody on October 8. He had been charged with extortion.

Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists on October 11 that an investigation was launched on the assumption that Kudoyarov's death was the consequence of a failure to provide proper medical care.

Vladimir Zherebenkov was the lawyer for businesswoman Vera Trifonova, who died in a pretrial detention center in Moscow in April 2010. He told RFE/RL in October that both Trifonova and Kudoyarov died as a result of the very low professional level of medical personnel in detention centers.

Read more in Russian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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