Azamat Umarov has been relieved of his position as principal of school No.62 for children with mental disabilities in Samarkand city. After his first day at work on May 18, 2018, Umarov forced all teachers to beautify the school grounds at the weekend. The school staff, in turn, informed the Samarkand regional department of Ministry of Education.

A special commission appointed by the ministry conducted an investigation confirming the allegations after reports emerged in social networks and the media. Upon the recommendations of the commission, the employment contract with Umarov was terminated.

Teachers of school No.62 told an Ozodlik radio reporter that the school principal who worked there until newly appointed Umarov arrived did not force teachers to clean the streets but encouraged them to pay more attention to children’s education. “If teachers are going to clean the streets every weekend without any rest, it would decrease the quality of teaching, would it not?” a teacher said. Prior to his position as a school principal, Umarov was head of the Public Education Department of the Samarkand region and was dismissed after a fatal incident involving Diana Yenikeeva. Yenikeeva, a teacher from the Kattakurgan district, was run over by a Kamaz truck after being forced to clean a busy highway.

After the incident, the Hokim of the Samarkand region, Turobjon Jurayev, promised that employees of public social services would no longer be engaged in beautification works.

The issue of eradicating forced labor is currently being actively discussed by the President of Uzbekistan and the government and is the subject of wide media attention. In April 2018, Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered the punishment of those guilty of causing Diana Yenikeeva’s death. In May 2018, the government issued a decree to prepare proposals to strengthen the accountability of officials for unlawfully forcing citizens to carry out community works. It is now prohibited to order khashars (a community cleaning day) without the permission of the President and the government.

The story of the dismissal and re-appointment of the school principal who forced teachers to clean streets caused a heated discussion on Uzbek social media. The following comments summarize these remarks:

“First of all, it turned out that the punishment was construed as he was re-appointed at a different place of work. Secondly, statements made by the Press Secretary of the President, Komil Allamjonov, and Mirziyoyev himself are just for show. The perpetrator was re-appointed instead of being punished. Why does Umarov still hold a managerial position? He is 60 years old, he is a retiree. If he doesn’t understand [ed. – the legal norms], he should retire and raise his grandchildren.”