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Majlis Podcast: Rating Uzbekistan’s Progress In Halting Forced Labor


Picking cotton in a field outside Bukhara in August 2018

For the first Majlis podcast of 2019, we decided to take a look at Uzbekistan’s attempts at domestic reform, specifically the pledge to end forced labor in the country's cotton fields, a decades-old practice.

In recent years, as many as 1 million people were conscripted into Uzbekistan’s cotton fields at harvest time. Wages were miserly and hours were long.

Children had been among those sent into the fields, but international criticism and boycotts of Uzbekistan’s cotton by international clothing makers eventually forced Uzbek authorities to halt child labor at cotton harvest time.

Children were replaced with adults, often people from the health-care and education sectors.

There were quotas for cotton to be picked, and there were quotas for the number of workers needed in the fields. Provincial and local officials are still tasked with meeting these targets.

On this week's Majlis, RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion that looks at how much progress Uzbek authorities made in 2018 in fulfilling the promise of President Shavkat Mirziyoev to eradicate forced labor from the cotton fields.

Joining the talk from Tashkent was Jonas Astrup, chief technical adviser in Uzbekistan for the International Labor Organization.

From Germany, Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (which is also part of the international coalition called the Cotton Campaign), took part.

From RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Laziz Omilov of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, who runs the special project Pahtagram for Ozodlik, also participated.

And I had a couple of comments to throw in also.

Majlis Podcast: Rating Uzbekistan’s Progress In Halting Forced Labor
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Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes.

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.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws 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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