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Tajik Police Probe Reports Of Schoolchildren Picking Cotton

Schoolchildren have reportedly been mobilized in parts of Tajikistan to help with the cotton harvest.
Schoolchildren have reportedly been mobilized in parts of Tajikistan to help with the cotton harvest.
KULOB, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities are checking reports that children in the southern part of the country are being used as forced labor, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Muzaffar Yusufov, who is deputy prosecutor of the Vose district in the Khatlon Province, confirmed to RFE/RL on September 25 that investigators are looking into reports that children are being forced to work during the cotton harvest.

He said any Education Department officials who have sent school-age children to work in cotton fields will be punished.

Last week, Vose police told a group of schoolchildren who were working in some cotton fields to leave and go to school.

Khoja Nazriev, a reporter for the local television station Mavji Ozod, later aired a program about those children and their work in the cotton fields.

Nazriev told RFE/RL on September 24 that he filmed some 50 kids working in the fields when they should have been at school. Nazriev said the children told him nobody paid them for picking cotton.

Some schoolchildren have reportedly also been mobilized in northern Tajikistan to help with the cotton harvest.

Maqsudjon Mahmoudov, who lives in the Konibodom district of Sughd Province, told RFE/RL on September 26 that his children have been working in the district cotton fields for the past two weeks.

Mahmoudov said he has no objections because they pick cotton after school hours and are paid for doing it.

Another resident of Konibodom, a woman named Farida, said her children are paid some 50-60 dirams ($0.11-0.13) for every kilo of cotton they pick. She said this is a decent amount of money that serves not just as pocket money for the children but also augments the family budget.

Last summer, the U.S. Labor Department added cotton from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to its list of commodities produced using indentured or child labor.