The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF) continues to monitor forced labor during this year’s cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. UGF monitors collecting information in seven out of Uzbekistan’s 13 regions are recording massive forced mobilization to pick cotton or the demand to pay for replacement workers.

Forced mobilization is taking place under the direct instructions of the heads of districts and regional administrations, affecting the vast majority of all organizations and enterprises, regardless of their form of ownership. The directors of the organizations receive quotas from the local administrations (khokimiyat) for sending their employees to pick cotton and must use all means to find the necessary number of pickers.

On October 12, President Mirziyoyev visited the Buka district of the Tashkent region to familiarize himself with the progress of the cotton harvest.

The next day, it was announced that the hokim of the Tashkent region had been reprimanded because of his “irresponsible attitude to the organization of the cotton harvest” and that the police chief and the prosecutor of the Tashkent region had been fired.

Five district hokims of the Tashkent region (Pskent, Bekabad, Buka, Chinoz and Yangiyul) were also punished and their salaries suspended for two months. As stated in the resolution of the hokim of the Tashkent region, they were punished because of shortcomings in the implementation of the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of August 30, 2018 “on measures to actively organize the cotton harvest in 2018”.

Local media have reported that district hokims were warned that they would be dismissed for non-compliance with the cotton quota established for their districts.

As a result, during the past few days, forced mobilization of workers from various organizations has intensified. Monitors attribute this to fear of failing to fulfill the cotton quota before the onset of rain.

Medical and educational staff at this time are not involved in the collection of cotton. The main burden of mobilization of pickers falls on middle-level officials, chairmen of mahalla committees, tax inspectors, police chiefs, heads of departments of banks and other organizations who have to persuade their employees to pick cotton. At the same time, they are at risk of being punished for “forcing people to pick cotton”.

UGF will present the full data collected by its monitors at the end of the cotton season. In this issue of the Chronicle, we present a selection of articles on the cotton harvest which have been published in independent media.

Download the: Cotton Harvest Chronicle 2018, Issue 3