Yet another update on forced and child labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector.
The Cotton Campaign continues to report on the flagrant abuse of human rights by the Uzbek government. There have been some unfortunate incidents linked to this year’s harvest (to read more about them click below) including:
- An account of a student who was expelled (despite having a legitimate medical excuse) from her school for not participating in the harvest.
- Bakhtiyar Hamrayev, an Uzbek activist, was attacked after the airing of a BBC story on this issue.
- The beginning of the court hearings in the case of Ganihon Mamakhanov, a Fergana-based activist who was framed and subsequently arrested on extortion charges.
Another post gives a quick overview of the findings in the Veritas preliminary report saying that:
- 45-50% of the cotton is harvested by children;
- Though the government announced the harvest completed in early November, many children are still being forced to work in the fields picking the last remnants;
- Officials are withholding 60% of already miserly wages from the children for the “rent” of their schoolbooks–so instead of 5 US cents per kilogram picked, they may get 2. For high school and college students who are forced to board near the fields or in them, the percent withheld is even higher to cover the cost of their food (more on this later);
- Children down to the third grade have been mobilized (those are 8 and 9 year olds);
- Teachers and other officials encountered by the researchers are taking more pains to try to convince observers that the process is “voluntary,” perhaps indicating a greater degree of surveillance and official pressure than in years past.
The Cotton Campaign, through Ferghana.ru, has posted a list of representatives that were present at the Tashkent Cotton Fair. According to the Cotton Campaign, “contracts were signed for over 600,000 tons of this year’s crop alone, and the list of attendees was the largest ever.”
Take a look at the list and see if you recognize any names. Please let us know who they are and which companies they service. This is a big step in the ability to trace this harvest.
Finally, in case some are still wondering what the big deal is, here are some videos showing what life is like for the cotton labourers.