The International Labor Organization on May 29 organized a seminar, conducted by ILO expert Svetlana Egorova, on the prevention of forced labor in the Uchkuprik district of the Fergana region.

A correspondent of the Eltuz web site spoke to a participant of the seminar, who said that before the seminar, the representative of the regional association of the Federation of Uzbek Trade Unions warned participants not to ask “unnecessary” questions. “The union worker instructed us to deny the existence of forced labor,” said the seminar participant.

To Svetlana Yegorova’s question: “What does cotton mean to you?”, All the participants answered in chorus: “Cotton is our national treasure”. Then the trainer asked: “And gold?”. Then she answered: “Why does the government of Uzbekistan not allow anyone else, a teacher, or a doctor to go to a gold mine, but organizes mass mobilization in the cotton fields, everyone. If cotton is a national treasure, why can’t the government protect it as they would a gold mine?”, she asked the seminar participants.

The expert added: “Although I am a representative of another state, I understand the meaning of the word khashar. Khasharcan last one or three days. But why does the kasharfor cotton last two months?” She then explained, by examples, that mobilization for harvesting cotton is forced labor.

The seminar was held under the strict supervision of representatives of the Ferghana Association of the Federation of Trade Unions. No one asked any “unnecessary” questions.