On July 29, the popular Uzbek news website www.kun.uz  published an article written by the journalist Tura Murod, who had recently been fired for criticizing the massive mobilization of teachers for mandatory “public” works and such as cleaning the streets, weeding and picking cotton, as well as repairing and constructing public buildings.

The journalist had raised this problem during the talk show “Open Studio”of the Uzbek TV channel “Culture and Education” on June 27. “After my appearance in this talk show, I was fired from my job,” wrote Tura Murod.

„Today, one document accidentally fell into my hands“, Tura Murad further wrote in his article.

The document was signed by the Khokim of Samarkand City Vohid Rakhimov and dated on July 10, 2017.

It provides a list of organizations that should send their employees to clean the Shokhi Zinda and Rudaki streets of Samarkand City in connection with the installation of tram lines and street extensions. Due to the tram installation, too old tiny streets shall be extended. Many old houses located alongside the streets therefore need to be tore down and the plots must be cleaned from garbage.

It follows from the document that every city organization received a certain plot of land that it was ordered to clear.

According to the document, the heads of the public institutions should ensure:

  • that the mobilized staff will tear down the old houses and clean the territories from garbage within 10 days
  • that every manager engages 20 employees from his/her organization every day for construction work
  • employees bring their own working tools: (scrap, chopper, ax, sledge hammer, etc.)

The document provides a list of organizations that must send their employees to public works. They are: the City Sanitary-Epidemiological Station, the City Department of Medicine, gas and electricity organisations, veterinaries, post offices, ecology inspection institutions, the pension fund, twelve academic lyceums, 27 city colleges, three maternity hospitals, the tuberculosis dispensary, the Central City Hospital and twelve public schools.

See the original document here.

Over the past month, the topic of forced labor has been raised by Uzbek newspapers and websites. (The publication of articles on critical issues on websites which are not blocked in Uzbekistan is in itself an extraordinary event).

On July 7, at a meeting with the local senators held at the Press Club in Tashkent, journalist Barchina Zhuraeva asked: “Is it right that teachers in Uzbekistan are forcibly involved in agricultural and other ‘public‘ works? What is the senators’ attitude towards this practice?“

Answering this question, the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agrarian, Water Management and Ecology Bakhodir Tojiyev said that no teacher had complained about forced labor at any meeting of members of parliament in various regions of the republic.

The journalist replied: “Not only teachers, but medical workers and kindergarten teachers as well go out to clean the streets. We witness this ourselves”.