CHRONICLE OF FORCED LABOUR IN UZBEKISTAN: Issue 5, 2015
by Uzbek-German Forum, 30. September 2015
A very important report about forced labour in the Uzbek cotton industry. A sad story also for many children. We have to struggle against this phenomenon which is a severe violation of human rights in the country. People must not be oppressed. Neither in Uzbekistan, nor in the rest of the world. So we are all the Uzbek cotton pickers.
The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights presents the latest reports
from the 2015 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan in this fourth issue of the
Chronicle of Forced Labour in Uzbekistan 2015, detailing instances of
forced labour by the government of Uzbekistan, in violation of
international law and national law and its commitments to implement
The Uzbek government has committed to not use forced labour,
particularly for the purpose of economic development, has established
laws prohibiting forced labour, and has committed to develop a voluntary
labour market for the cotton sector, to prevent cotton picking by
education and medical staff, and to ensure there is no forced or child
labour in World Bank project areas.
Uzbek government is a member of the International Labour Organization
and has ratified ILO conventions concerning forced labour, Nos. 29 and
105, and, concerning forced child labour, No. 182. Article 37 of the
Uzbek constitution prohibits forced labour and guarantees the right to
work in fair labour conditions, and Article 241 of the Labour Code of
the Republic of Uzbekistan prohibits the employment of persons under 18
years of age in hazardous work, including cotton picking. In 2014, the
Uzbek government issued a decree committing to the ““Creation of
institutional base for ensuring of free employment of the cotton pickers
by farmers through labour market institutes.” In August 2015, the Uzbek
government committed “to prevent the mobilization of education and
medical personnel for the cotton harvest,” at a round table with
International Trade Union Confederation, International Organization of
Employers, UN, UNICEF, EU and Embassies of the US, Germany, Switzerland,
France, Korea and Russia in Uzbekistan. In 2014 and 2015, the Uzbek
government signed loan agreements with the World Bank agreeing to the
suspension of finance if there is child or forced labour in the project
areas. Furthermore, the Uzbek government has committed to respect the
inalienable civil rights of its citizens, including freedom of
expression and the exchange of information of all kinds through any
media, by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political
its commitments, the Uzbek government continues systematic forced
labour on a mass scale. From the president to the local neighborhood
committees (“mahalla”), all levels of government are orchestrating the
forced labour system, and the government is harassing, detaining and
suppressing citizens’ attempts to document the cotton harvest and to
distribute information about national laws and human rights.
UGF calls on the Uzbek government, International Labour Organization
and World Bank to address the following reports of violations of its
Violations reported in the Chronicle of Forced Labour in Uzbekistan 2015, Issue 5:
Report 1: Uzbek government
officials are threatening to withhold payments to pensioners and women
who receive childcare welfare benefits in order to mobilize them to pick
cotton, forcing teachers and doctors to pick cotton, and on one farm
permitting children to pick cotton in the Kuyichirchik district of
mobilized residents to pick cotton since September 10. The majority of
forced labourers are pensioners, women receiving child care benefits and
public-sector workers. Children picked cotton between September 10 and
13 on the “Atadjanov” farm, apparently to help their parents fulfill
assigned cotton picking quotas. Officials in Tashkent region have
assigned daily cotton picking quotas of 60 kilograms per day, and the
rate established is 240 soum (~5 cents USD) per kilogram of harvested
cotton. Anyone picking cotton is required to register at the mahalla
Source: “В неспециализированном на выращивании хлопка районе
Узбекистана с каждого сборщика требуют ежедневно сдавать 60 килограммов
урожая,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik,” 14 September 2015, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/27246510.html.
Report 2: The Uzbek
government’s school administrators are forcing teachers to pick cotton
and to pay for hiring cotton pickers in Tashkent region.
Administrators of school No. 62 in Zangiota district of Tashkent
region required each staff person to pay 800,000 soums (~$160),
purportedly for the hiring of day labourers to pick cotton instead of
the school staff. The administration also ordered staff to pick cotton
on the weekends and to sign documents stating their agreement with the
orders. Many of the teachers have sought additional work to earn income
to fulfill the required payments to the cotton harvest.
Teachers from the school said:
“They are collecting 800,000 soums. At the moment, people give as
much as they can. One person gave 200,000, another 300,000. They told us
to pay the remainder quickly. Soon we will get our salary. They told us
after that we have to pay the remainder,” said one teacher 1 of school
No. 62 in Zangiota.
“The highest salary in our school is 1,300,000 soums (~$260), and the
lowes is 300,000 soums (~$61). Those who receive higher salaries can
fulfill the requirements, but even the teacher who receives the highest
salary is left with only about 500,000 soums (~$100). Can you imagine
how to live in Uzbekistan with this? And imagine the situation of the
teachers with lower salaries. For example, some receive 300,000 or
500,000 soums per month and have to pay 800,000 soums to not participate
in the cotton harvest. Now one teacher is tutoring, another trading at
the market,” said a second Zangiota teacher.
“Our director made us sign the statement. It says, ‘For family
reasons, due to childcare duties or other reasons, I ask you to hire a
worker to pick cotton instead of me.’ We asked the principal to send us
to the cotton fields for 10 days or two weeks, but he refused. It turns
out, we all have to pay immediately. We were ready to pick cotton in
order to avoid paying the money, but our director did not agree,” said a
third Zangiota teacher.
“We were told that 4-5 times per month we will go on buses to pick
cotton in groups of ten people. Teachers will go to the cotton harvest
when there are no lessons of his/her subject in school. But who is
thinking now about school. In the first place stands the cotton,” said a
fourth Zangiota teacher.”
Source: “Хлопковая кампания в Узбекистане заставила учителей подрабатывать чернорабочими,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik,” 15 September 2015, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/27249016.html.
Report 3: The administration of
the Uzbek government’s Pedagogical College of Tashkent is penalizing
students with fines of 700,000 soums (~$142) for refusing orders to pick
cotton and forcibly mobilizing the students to pick cotton in Buka
district, Tashkent region.
Report 4: The administration
(hokimiyat) of the Kibray district in Tashkent region issued an order
that doctors, teachers and staff of kindergartens would pick cotton for
Source: “Талабанинг отаси: ‘Ёлланма ишчи учун 700 минг сўмни қаердан олай?’” BBC O’zbek, 16 September 2015, http://www.bbc.com/uzbek/uzbekistan/2015/09/150916_cotton_college_father.
Report 5: The Uzbek government
has denied citizens’ right to exchange information so thoroughly that
citizens are afraid to carry pamphlets that explain national laws
prohibiting forced labour.
UGF prepared a pamphlet
that explains the national laws in Uzbekistan that prohibit forced
labour, and the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan has been
distributing the pamphlets. Alliance member Malohat Ishankulova
“There is nothing inflammatory in the pamphlet, only advice on how to
protect rights guaranteed by the law. It explains how to proceed if you
are mobilized for forced labour and how to protect your rights against
future violations. Nevertheless, when I distributed the pamphlets,
people feared reading it, even people with higher education,” said Ms.
“Reading about the protection of their rights, people wonder and ask
us, ‘You must be from Mars. How should this be possible here? There is
no law left in our country,’” the Ms. Ishankulova added.
Download the pamphlet here: http://uzbekgermanforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Zashita-ot-prinuditelnogo-detskogo-truda_RU.pdf
Source: “Пахта 2015: “Мабодо Марсдан тушмаганмисиз?” BBC O’zbek, 17 September 2015, http://www.bbc.com/uzbek/uzbekistan/2015/09/150917_cy_force_labour
Report 6: Alik Nurutdinov, CEO
of the Uzbek Metallurgical Industrial Complex “Uzmetkombinat,” a joint
venture of the Uzbek government and private companies, ordered 3,500
workers to pick cotton in the Bekobod district of Tashkent region.
Uzbek Metallurgical Industrial Complex “Uzmetkombinat” CEO Mr. Nurutdinov issued a written order
for 3,500 staff to work on the farms Bekobod, Navbahor, Oybek,
O’zbekiston, Mavlonov and Avangard in the Bekobod district of Tashkent
region. The order detailed instructions for each group to include
overseers, pickers, cooks, medical staff, and persons organizing
Uzemetkombinat is a joint venture in which the Uzbek government owns 74% of shares. The the Uzmetkombinat website
lists as major private shareholders “UzDaewooAuto,” AGMK and NGMK.
However, in 2008 General Motors and the state-owned company UzAvtosanoat
purchased UzDaewooAuto and established GM Uzbekistan.
Source: “‘Ўзметкомбинат’нинг 3,5 минг ишчиси Бекободга пахтага чиқарилди,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik,” 21 September 2015, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/27260373.html.
Report 7: Administrators of
clinic No. 2 in Urgench city forced staff to pick cotton in the village
of “Bashkirshih” in the Yangibazar district of Khorezm region or to pay a
fine of 10,000 soums (~$2) per day, purportedly for the hiring of a day
labourer to pick cotton in their place.
The bus transporting 80 people, including staff from clinic 2 and day
labourers, rolled over, on Sunday, September 20 at approximately 8:00
AM. Twenty-three people were injured, and two clinic employees were
treated for injuries at the hospital.
Source: “В Хорезме перевернулся автобус с медиками–сборщиками хлопка,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik,” 22 September 2015, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/27261822.html.
Report 8: Administrators of
kindergarten No. 13 in Buka district, Tashkent region and the head nurse
of the Buka children’s hospital forcibly mobilized staff to pick cotton
in the region. The Toytepa district forcibly mobilized students to pick
cotton in the Huja farm in Buka district.
Employees of the kindergarten and sports center in Buka district
picked cotton as Brigade No. 170 on the farm Kokaral, each day until
lunchtime. Khilola Juraeva’s daughter was one of the nurses at the
hospital in Buka who was sent to pick cotton, and Ms. Juraeva reported
that her sister Barno Khodijieva, a kindergarten teacher, had been
forced to pick cotton in 2014 and was fired after a theft occurred in
her classroom while she was in the cotton fields. Employees of the Buka
prosecutor’s office picked cotton on the Dustlik farm on September 23,
reported a Buka resident.
Source: Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, 23 September 2015, Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Report 9: The administrators of
schools and hospitals in Jizzak region used coercion to mobilize
employees to pick cotton and ordered the employees to lie by saying they
voluntarily pick cotton to anyone who asks.
“I do not know a single nurse or teacher who went out to harvest
cotton on his or her own will. Those who go to the fields these days do
so only because of orders they received from their superiors. They were
also instructed what to say in case a foreigner asks them questions
while in the cotton fields. They have to say that they pick cotton
voluntarily to make money, and no one is forced to do so,” said a
teacher in Jizzak region interviewed by UGF.
Source: Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, interview of a teacher in Jizzak, 24 September 2015.
Report 10: School administrators mobilized students and teachers to pick cotton in the Bayaut district of Syrdarya region.
“We sleep at the local school while here to harvest cotton in the
Bayaut district. It has been two weeks since the start of the harvest
season. The work is not easy. Our teachers wake us up at 5:30 in the
morning. We dress, have breakfast and go to the fields. By 7 AM, we are
already working in the fields. The weighing of cotton picked starts at 5
PM, and around 7 PM we return to our accommodations. There are no
washing facilities, only 10-15 places to wash for more than 400
students. We have to fill water containers ourselves, and wait in long
queues. There is no hot water. Most students rent apartments for 4,000 –
5,000 soums (~$1) per night. Our bedroom is the school’s gym, and more
than 60 people sleep there. There is no fresh air, since everyone keeps
everything, including clothes and shoes, her,” said a 19-year old
first-year student at Gulistan State University.
Source: Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, interview of a
Gulistan State University student in Syrdarya region, 24 September 2015.
Report 11: Police arrested, detained and beat Dmitry Tihonov in retaliation for his work to document practices during the cotton harvest.
The police arrested Dmitry Tihonov while he was observing the
mobilization of people for the cotton harvest at the city administration
office in Angren city, Tashkent region. Police took Mr. Tihonov to room
22 of the police station and interrogated him, and an apparently senior
ranking officer beat him.
“He started to insult and intimidate me, yelling at me, threatening
to use force. I sat there in silence. Then he came closer and raised his
fist at me. Naturally I wanted to defend myself, but I realized that if
I hurt him I could be accused of attacking a police officer. In such a
situation it is difficult to prove anything. Knowing this, I sat without
moving. Then he picked up a stack of papers, 200 sheets, and started
beating me on the face with it, shouting, ‘Cotton is our wealth, our
pride! You interfere with us. What right do you have to interfere with
our business?!’” reported Mr. Tihonov.
“I am consulting with lawyers about my detention and the beating by
the police, but I will not stop monitoring. I will continue. But if they
tie me up and people follow me at every turn, monitoring will not be
very successful. I will continue this work. What happened to me cannot
be the reason to end my work,” Mr. Tihonov added.
Source: “‘Пахта бизнинг бойлигимиз, бизнинг фахримиз эканлигини билмайсизми?’” BBC O’zbek, 24 September 2015, http://www.bbc.com/uzbek/uzbekistan/2015/09/150924_cotton_tikhonov_harrasment
Report 12: School
administrators forced teachers to pick cotton and penalized teachers who
refused with fines in the Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent regions.
Eid Al-Adha is one of two annual holidays celebrated by Muslims
globally and a national holiday in Uzbekistan. Administrators of schools
in the Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent regions forced teachers to pick
cotton on the holiday and fined teachers who refused between 30,000 and
40,000 soums (~ $8 – $10). In Samarkand, the school administrators
mobilized teachers under orders from the district mayors (hokims). A
secondary school teacher from Samarkand reported that the administration
of his school is sending 20 members of the 60-person staff to pick
cotton every 10 days in the Pastdargom district of Samarkand region.
“Why are teachers in Uzbekistan forced to pick cotton? Even though
Eid Al-Adha is an official public holiday, we the teachers are forced to
go pick cotton. What an injustice. Why do other countries not take
strict measures against such oppressive and foolish policy of the
government of Uzbekistan? How long shall this go on?! They demand 30,000
soums to not pick cotton on the holiday. Half of our teachers will pick
cotton, and the other half will pay and stay home to celebrate the Eid
Al-Adha,” wrote a secondary school teacher from Samarkand in a letter to
Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik.”
Source: “В день празднования Курбан-байрама узбекских учителей заставили выйти на уборку хлопка,” Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty “Ozodlik,” 25 September 2015, http://www.ozodlik.org/content/article/27269067.html
 ILO Convention No. 29 concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour
(Forced Labour Convention), adopted June 28, 1930, 39 U.N.T.S. 55,
entered into force May 1, 1932, Article 2, stating “forced or compulsory
labour shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person
under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not
offered himself voluntarily.” The ILO has further explained that “menace
of penalty” includes various forms of coercion, such as physical
violence, psychological coercion, and the loss of rights or privileges.
[ILO, “Giving Globalization a Human Face,” 2012, ILC.101/III/1B, Para
308 http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_174846.pdf, at paragraph 270.]
 ILO Convention No. 105 concerning Abolition of Forced Labour,
adopted June 25, 1957, entered into force, January 17, 1959, at Article
1b, stating “Each Member of the International Labour Organisation which
ratifies this Convention undertakes to suppress and not to make use of
any form of forced or compulsory labour…(b) as a method of mobilising
and using labour for purposes of economic development.”
 ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate
Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, adopted
June 17, 1999, entered into force November 19, 2000, prohibits
participation of children in hazardous labour, defined as “work which,
by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely
to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”
 Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Art. 37, available at: http://www.gov.uz/en/constitution/.
 Prime Minister of Uzebkistan, Sh. MIrzieev, “Decree of Cabinet of
Ministers of Republic of Uzbekistan ‘On additional measures on
implementation of conventions of International Labour Organization (ILO)
ratified by Republic of Uzbekistan in 2014-2016,” Tashkent, 27 May
2014, No. 132, at point No. 25.
 International Labour Organization, “Round table on the
implementation of international labour standards in Uzbekistan, 5 August
2015, http://www.ilo.org/moscow/news/WCMS_392458/lang–en/index.htm, at ¶ 3.
 World Bank project areas include the regions of Andijan (Ulugnor
district), Bukhara (Alat district), Fergana (Yazyavan district),
Karakalpakstan (Beruni, Ellikkala, Turtkul districts), Kashkadarya
(Mirishkor district), Namangan, Samarkand, Syrdarya (Bayavut district),
Tashkent. See the following documents for the Uzbek government
commitments to the World Bank:  Inspection Panel, Report and
Recommendations on Request for Inspection, Republic of Uzbekistan:
Second Rural Enterprise Support Project and Additional Financing for
Second Rural Enterprise Support Project (P126962), Report No. 83254-UZ,
(December 9, 2013), at ¶ 25 “all of the following documents have been
revised to include provisions that require the beneficiary/beneficiaries
to comply with national and international laws and regulations on
forced labour, alongside those for child labour: (i) the Rural
Enterprise Investment Guidelines; (ii) the Subsidiary Loan Agreement
among the Ministry of Finance, the Rural Restructuring Agency (RRA) and
the Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs); (iii) the Project
Implementation Plan; and (iv) the sub-loan agreement between the PFIs
and the beneficiaries.  World Bank, “Financing Agreement (South
Karakalpakstan Water Resources Management Improvement Project) between
Republic of Uzbekistan and International Development Association,”
Credit Number 5490-UZ, 29 October 2014,
at ¶ 4.01 “Article IV: Remedies of Association.”  World Bank, “Loan
Agreement (Horticulture Development Project) between Republic of
Uzbekistan and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development,”
Loan Number 8393-UZ, 8 April 2015,
at Schedule 2 Project Execution, Section I., Implementation
Arrangements, A. Institutional Arrangements, 2. (iv), Schedule 2 Project
Execution, Section I., Implementation Arrangements, C. Subsidiary Loan
Agreements, 4., Schedule 2 Project Execution, Section I., Implementation
Arrangements, C. Subsidiary Loan Agreements, 5.e, Schedule 2 Project
Execution, Section I., Implementation Arrangements, D. Sub-financing,
3(e), Schedule 2 Project Execution, Section I., Implementation
Arrangements, E. Safeguards, 2., Schedule 2 Project Execution, Section
I., Implementation Arrangements, E. Safeguards, 4-6.
 United Nations Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx, Article 19, ratified by Uzbekistan 28 September 1995.