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Uzbek Man Kills Himself After Public Humiliation Over Cotton Quota

TASHKENT -- A father of four has committed suicide after being forced to pick cotton then humiliated publicly for underperforming in the western region of Karakalpakistan.

Safarboy Karimov was found hanging from a tree early on October 18, just days after government officials berated him at a public meeting for not meeting a cotton-picking quota.

RELATED: Uzbekistan Signs Contracts At Cotton Fair Worth $1 Billion

A witness at the meeting told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that at least one official told Karimov he would be better off hanging himself than coming to another mandatory nightly meeting without meeting the quota.

Uzbeks who are forced to pick cotton have described to RFE/RL the intense official pressure that drives them to work past midnight to meet daily quotas and then rise at 5:00 a.m. to return to the fields.

Three other Uzbeks from the same region who were being forced to pick cotton fled Uzbekistan this week.

Uzbekistan is one of the world's biggest exporters of cotton, but child and other forced labor practices in its state-dominated cotton industry have prompted calls for global boycotts.

Uzbek authorities reported signing contracts worth $1 billion to sell cotton from its 2013 harvest at an annual cotton fair held in Tashkent on October 16-17.

China is its biggest cotton buyer.