A CHRONICLE OF FORCED LABOUR IN THE COTTON SECTOR IN UZBEKISTAN
Issue 6, October 29, 2014
Deaths and serious injuries suffered and reported during the 2014 cotton harvest:
The number of adults and children who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan has reached a new, disturbing record. Last year 11 people died as a result of the forced labour system of cotton production. In this issue of the Chronicle, we present the deaths and serious injuries that have been reported to Uzbek human rights defenders and to Ozodlik Radio during this year’s harvest.
The cases during the 2014cotton harvest can be divided into four groups:
a) Accidents related to the transportation of cotton and cotton pickers
b) Accidents related to inadequate living conditions and lack of safety
c) Deaths of cotton harvesters due to compromised health conditions
d) Suicides in the cotton fields
UGF calls on the government of Uzbekistan to conduct a thorough, fair and transparent investigation of each case and to bring to justice the responsible parties.
1. 29 Students injured
A ZIL cargo truck crashed on September 17 while transporting students of the Industrial College of the Chirokchi district of Kashkadarya region to the cotton fields. 29 of 39 students aboard were injured, and all of them were taken to the hospital. Some students suffered concussions, and others had broken limbs. The youngest of injured students was 16 years old, and the oldest was 18 years old.
The truck crashed at 9:30 am in Chial village of Chirokchi region. The driver reportedly fell asleep while driving. The police did not confirm this information.
“Чироқчидаги аварияда 29 ҳашарчи-ўқувчи жароҳатланди,” Ozodlik Radio, 19 September 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26595450.html
2. Tractor accident leaves one person dead, two injured
A tractor-trailer carrying cotton crashed into a car, Nexia model, on September 17. The crash killed 24-year old Dilshodbek Valiev, who was traveling in the front seat of the car. The car driver, Elyor Mirzajonov, and another passenger, Hamid Turdiev, were taken to the hospital and treated for severe injuries.
The accident happened at 10 pm. According to witnesses, the tractor was towing three trailers full of cotton, and not all of its hazard lights were working. The Nexia driver did not see the trailer and crashed into it.
There is a criminal investigation against the tractor driver, Gulom Hayitov, for unsafe operation of the tractor-trailer.
“Олтинкўлда пахта ортилган трактор авариясида бир киши ўлди,” Ozodlik Radio, 20 September 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26596987.html
3. Ibodulla Boboev, director of a vocational college, killed en route home from cotton harvesting
Ibodulla Boboev died from injuries suffered in a car accident on September 20, while he traveled home from the cotton fields. Ibodulla Boboev was the director of a vocational college in Dukhchi village of the Shakhrisabz district of the Kashkadarya region. He was mobilized to pick cotton in the Mubarek district.
According to the witnesses, the accident occurred around 1 am not far away from the Tukboy village in the mountainous area of the Yakkabog region, along the route between Karshi and Shakhrisabz. Mr. Boboev was returning home from cotton harvesting in the Mubarek district. The care, Nexia model, with Boboev and another Nexia car crashed into each other. Witnesses have reported several versions of the accident. According to a local journalist who has followed the case, one of the drivers was drunk.
“Пахтага сафарбар қилинган коллеж директори аварияда ўлди,” Ozodlik Radio, 22 September 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26599615.html
4. 19-year old Humoyun Ergashev hit by a car
19-year old Humoyun Ergashev was hit by a car and injured on September 23. The car, a Nexia model, hit Mr. Ergashev at about 10 pm.
Humoyun Ergashev went to pick cotton instead of his father, who worked as a teacher in Bakhmal district. During the cotton harvest, Humayun renting a room in one of the houses close to the road where he was struck by the car. A lot of people from the Bakhmal district were sent to Mirzachul district to pick cotton, and they were renting rooms from local residents.
After the accident, Ergashev was taken to the district emergency care center. Due to the severity of his injures, the center sent him to the regional hospital the next day. According to one of the hospital doctors, the young man had a serious head injury, and one leg was broken. The doctors conducted the surgery, and Mr. Ergashev’s condition is improving.
“Ўқитувчи отаси ўрнига пахтага чиққан ўсмирни машина босиб кетди,” Ozodlik Radio, 3 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26619092.html
5. Begali Ergashev, chief of police in Pakhtaabad district, was hit by a tractor-trailer and died
Begali Ergashev died from injuries suffered when his car was crushed by a tractor-trailer on September 23rd in the Izbaskan district of the Andijan region. Mr. Ergashev, the 30-year old police chief of traffic safety in Pakhtaabad district, was driving a Nexia car at high speed at night. The trailer did not have functioning hazard lights and was carrying cotton to a collection station. Mr. Ergashev did not see the unlit trailer, and his car was crushed on impact. He suffered serious injuries and died three days later in the hospital.
“Пахтаобод “ГАИ”си бошлиғи пахтанинг навбатдаги қурбони бўлди, Ozodlik Radio, 27 September 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26609103.html
6. Murod Melikuziev dies in the fields, picking cotton instead of his grandson
Murod Melikuziev died of a heart attack while harvesting cotton on the Muhammadali Fahri farm, located in the Dangar district of the Fergana region, on September 25. Mr. Melikuziev was 57 years old, from Kieli village of the Dangar district, and went to pick cotton instead of his grandson, who is a pupil of an elementary school. The Dangar district elementary schools ordered the parents of primary school children to pick cotton instead of their children.
According to one account, Melikuziev suffered a heart attack while he was unloading his bundle of cotton into the tractor-trailer. According to another account, the man climbed onto the step of the trailer and, while unloading the cotton, had a heart attack and died on the trailer.
Local officials of Dangar confirmed that Melikuziev died on the Muhammadali Fahri farm. However, they denied that it happened during cotton harvesting. They say that the man was a friend of a farmer’s father, had drunk vodka on the cotton field, and died.
According to the source from the Dangar region, the administration of all schools directed parents to pick cotton instead of their children. Yet after the death of Murad Melikuziev, no more parents were sent to harvesting.
“Ўқувчи невараси ўрнига пахтага чиққан бобо далада жон берди,” Ozodlik Radio, 29 September 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26611942.html
7. 18-year old Majid Uteganov hanged himself
Majid Uteganov hanged himself and died on September 29. He was 18 years old.
A third-year student of the Takhiatash polytechnical vocational college, Mr. Uteganov was sent to pick cotton in the Khujayli district of the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic. He and the other students picked cotton on the Boynikhol Saroykul farm. They stayed in the houses of local residents, 4 – 5 students in each house. Uteganov and his four classmates lived in the house of the farm chairman Toltash Khaitboyev. According to the source, Majid was found hanging from a gas pipe in the early morning of September 29.
The reason Mr. Uteganov committed suicide is still unknown. Yet the police are trying to cover up the case. Some people say that he was shamed by the teachers because he was not picking much cotton. Other people say that he had a conflict with his classmates.
A representative of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Karakalpakistan confirmed that the student died; however, he denied that it happened during the cotton harvest.
“Хўжайлида пахта теримига юборилган коллеж талабаси ўзини осди,” Ozodlik Radio, 2 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26616892.html
8. Two children locked in burning home while their mother was picking cotton
The citizens of Toza-Amirobod village of Ellikkal’a region of Karakalpakstan were mobilized to pick cotton on the Istam-Turkman farm. A mother (whose name is kept anonymous) was accustomed to always taking her children with her to the cotton field, but that day she was told the authorities would visit the field and so it was prohibited to take children. The mother returned her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son home, locked the door, and went back to the field. She forgot to switch off the electric cooking stove, and a wood plank underneath caught fire. The children were unable to open the door and choked on the smoke.
According to another source, the local police, a mullah and one person from the village council had been going door to door and mobilizing women for the cotton harvest. They threaten women by cutting the social benefits for children if they refuse. It might be they told this woman the same.
“Пахта мавсуми қурбонлари сони тўққиз нафарга етди, Ozodlik Radio, 4 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26620554.html
9. 20-year old Shamsiddin Bobosaidov was beaten by students and died on the cotton field
Shamsiddin Bobosaidov died in a cotton field in the Oq Oltin district of the Syrdarya region on October 2. He was 20 years old and a second-year student in the physical-mathematics faculty of Gulistan State University.
According to one of Mr. Bobosaidov’s peers, the senior-class students beat the freshmen and other students of earlier classes and forced them to do work for them. Bobosaidov did not obey, and they beat him in the evening. The next day he lost consciousness while picking cotton, collapsed in the field, and died in the hospital the same day. Another student confirmed the account and added that the police is trying to investigate, but the students are not allowed to give information.
A university teacher, who did not want to disclose his name, denied that Bobosaidov was beaten, and instead said that the young man just fell down in the field and died. Some have reported the young man’s tongue blocked his throat, and he could not breathe.
Mr. Bobosaidov died in a hospital. The local police did not register that he was beaten. An autopsy has not been done.
“Пахта мавсуми қурбонлари сони тўққиз нафарга етди, Ozodlik Radio, 4 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26620554.html
10. 23-year old Shakhnoza Mirzajonova died the day after returning home from picking cotton
Shakhnoza Mirzajonova died on October 3, the day after returning from harvesting cotton in the Rishton district of the Fergana region. She was 23 years old and a second-year student of the Construction Faculty of Fergana Politechnical Institute. Ms. Mirzajonova had become ill and was allowed to return home.
The institute administration asked that the death not be connected with the cotton policy. One of the lecturers alleged that after returning home Shakhnoza went to bath-house, slipped, hit her head, and died immediately from the injury.
“Фарғона Политехника институтининг ҳашарчи–талабаси оламдан ўтди,” Ozodlik Radio, 7 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26624926.html
11. Head of a cotton collection headquarters died from a heart attack
Abdurazok Hudoyberdiev died of a heart attack on October 5in the Nishan district of the Kashkadarya region. He was one of the directors of the district cotton collection headquarters.
Mr. Hudoyberdiev was working as a chief of the Building and Construction Department of Talimarjan town of the Kashkadarya region. He reportedly had serious health problems and was taking approximately 4 Nitrosorbidum pills per day for chronic heart failure. However, he could not take breaks during the cotton harvest, because he was appointed a director of the local cotton collection headquarters, which included other representatives of building and construction departments.
Mr. Hudoyberdiev died in the morning on October 5. His body was sent for an autopsy in the Nishan region.
“Қашқадарёда “Пахта штаби” бошлиқларидан бири юрак хуружига учради,’ Ozodlik Radio, 5 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26621349.html
12. 19-year old Abbosbek Taptiev died from a heart attack
Abbosbek Taptiev died from a heart attack on October 5. He was 19 and had been picking cotton in the Kurgantepa district of Andijan.
Taptiev was mobilized for cotton harvesting through the joint venture company where he worked and died the night between days in the cotton fields. The company sent 60 employees every 10 days to contribute to this year’s harvest.
According to the company representative, the young man suddenly woke up, lost consciousness, and died on the way to the hospital. According to forensic investigation, the reason for death was a heart attack.
“”GM-Ўзбекистон”га пудратчи корхонанинг 19 яшар ишчиси пахтада вафот этди,” Ozodlik Radio, 8 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26627321.html
13. 22-year Fayziddin Abdurasulov run over by a tractor
22-year old Fayziddin Abdurasulov lived in the Bakhmal district of Jizzakh region. He went to Mirzachul district to pick cotton instead of his mother, who is a nurse. According to witnesses, Abdurasulov fell asleep in the field and was run over by a tractor on October 9th. The young man suffered serious injuries and was taken to the hospital.
According to the doctors, Abdurasulov is still in critical condition. His right shoulder, six ribs, and shin-bone are broken. He remains in intensive care.
„Онаси ўрнига пахтага чиққан ҳашарчини трактор босиб кетди“, Ozodlik Radio, 11 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26632362.html
14. Narimon Mustafayev, an employee of the Spanish-Uzbek joint venture Maham-Chirdhich , fell down the stairs and died
Narimon Mustafayev, a 53-year old worker of the Spanish-Uzbek joint venture Maham-Chirchich, located in the town of Chirchiq, died on October 10 in Arnasay district, Jizzakh region. Mr. Mustafayev had been sent to pick cotton in Arnasay, along with other workers from the company.
Mustafayev and other workers were renting rooms from local residents while they harvested cotton. On October 7, Mustafayev did not go to the field, because he was feeling ill. At 10 in the evening, he attempted to go to the toilet, but there was no electricity, making it impossible to see the stairs. Mustafayev slipped in the darkness and fell down from the second floor to the first. Mustafayev died from injuries incurred in the fall on October 10 in the hospital.
„Ўзбекистон – Испания қўшма корхонаси ишчиси пахтада ўлди“, Ozodlik Radio, 22 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26649999.html
15. 16-year old Bekhzod Kahhorov electrocuted and died
Bekhzod Kahhorov was electrocuted and died on October 15 in the Turttom village of Zomin District, Jizzakh region. Mr. Kahhorov was 16 years old and a freshman in the Agricultural and Consumer Service Vocational College of Zomin.
The tragedy happened at the railway junction, where trains stop. Kahhorov and his fellow college freshmen were picking cotton on the field near the railway junction. Kahhorov climbed onto the roof of a rail car to take a picture. He touched an electrical conductor and was severely electrocuted. The young man died on the scene.
„Зоминда пахтага чиқарилган 16 яшар ўқувчи ток уришидан ўлди“, Ozodlik Radio, 16.10.2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26640357.html
16. Farmer Habibullo Egamberdiev committed suicide following humiliation by local authorities
At a cotton harvest meeting on October 17, Habibullo Egamberdiev, a farmer in Khazarasp district of Khorezm region, was humiliated by the local authorities for not fulfilling his assigned cotton production quota.
Another farmer in the district reported that local authorities had constantly pressured Egamberdiev to fulfill the quota. He delivered the cotton harvested on October 16. The next day at the harvest meeting, the local authorities verbally abused him, because he did not manage to submit the prescribed quantity of cotton. He went home, and after all went to sleep, hanged himself from a tree in the garden.
The official of the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed the suicide of a farmer in Mukhomon village. The official reported that the prosecutor’s office is now investigating the case.
However, the local authorities of Khazarasp district firmly denied the reports of humiliation and constant pressure on the farmer.
„Хоразмда ҳокимлик йиғилишида ҳақоратланган фермер ўзини осди“, Ozodlik Radio, 21 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26648503.html
17. Vohid Juraev, a 3rd– year college student, died during the cotton harvest
Vohid Juraev died from a heart attack on October 18, following a day in the cotton fields. Mr. Juraev was a 3rd-year student in the Samarkand City Automobile College and originally from Kartepa village of the Ishtikhan district of the Samarkand region. The college sent him and his peers to pick cotton in the Istiklol village, Narpay district of Samarkand.
That day it was raining, but the students were picking cotton anyhow. Around 7:30 pm, Juraev and his classmates returned from the cotton field to the house where they were living during the harvest. As Juraev entered the house, he collapsed from a heart attack and died immediately.
„Самарқандлик 18 яшар талаба пахта фронтининг навбатдаги қурбони бўлди“, Ozodlik Radio, 20 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26646643.html
18. A local police officer crashed into a trailer carrying cotton and died
Captain Asilbek Mazokirov, a 35-year old local police officer in the Besharyk district of the Fergana region, crashed into a trailer carrying cotton to a collection station on October 18. Captain Mazokirov died as a result of the accident.
Captain Mazokirov was accompanying the cars transporting people home from the cotton fields. While driving home after his shift, he crashed into the trailer of a tractor on the road before him. He did not see it in the night, because the hazard lights of the trailer were not working. Captain Mazokirov died at scene.
„Бешариқлик капитан пахтанинг навбатдаги қурбони бўлди“, Ozodlik Radio, 22 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26650401.html
19. Sohiba Turimova, a schoolgirl in 7th grad, committed suicide during the cotton harvest
Sohiba Turimova hanged herself in one of the cotton fields where she had been picking cotton, on October 21. Ms. Turimova was a 7th-grade student in the Samarkand region.
Ms. Turimova’s family had a very difficult financial situation. Her parents sent her along with others from their village Guzalkent to pick cotton. She was working on the field picking cotton since the beginning of the harvest. No one, not the teachers or others, asked why the pupil was not attending school.
The young girl was found dead in one of the field houses early in the morning. The reasons for suicide are still unknown.
Abdulla Murodov is the deputy director for educational work at the middle school No. 82 of the Postdargom district of Samarkand region, where Turimova studied. The school official did not give any information, only saying that the school did not mobilize pupils to pick cotton. The prosecutor’s office of the Postdargom district also refused to provide any explanations.„Пастдарғомлик ўқувчи қиз дала шийпонида ўз жонига қасд қилди“, Ozodlik Radio, 22 October 2014, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/26650968.html