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Majlis Podcast: The Cotton Campaign In Central Asia


Students are routinely sent into the cotton fields of Central Asia to help with the harvest each year, despite widespread criticism by human rights groups.

The topic of this week’s Majlis podcast is the cotton campaign in Central Asia, that time of year when more than 1 million people -- doctors, nurses, teachers, students, and others -- are conscripted and sent into the cotton fields of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and, especially, Uzbekistan.

Rights organizations have been complaining about forced labor in Central Asia’s cotton fields for years, but has the criticism resulted in any changes? Why is cotton so important to Central Asia anyway? And is it just the money or are there other reasons governments in the region send people into the fields every year?

Muhammad Tahir, RFE/RL's media relations manager, moderated the discussion. Participating were Kirill Boychenko, coordinator of a coalition of NGOs called the Cotton Campaign; Ruslan Myatiev, editor of Alternative Turkmenistan News; and Steve Swerdlow, Central Asian researcher at Human Rights Watch. I also participated.

Listen to or download the Majlis podcast below or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change. Content will draw on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad. The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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