UGF

PETITION: Stop Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry!

Every year, students in Uzbekistan are massively forced to participate in the cotton harvest. This new animated video tells about the background of this practice: Why is this happening in Uzbekistan? How come nobody refuses? In how far does the mobilisation of students for the cotton production violate Uzbek legislation?

So, what can you do to help?

>>> SIGN THE PETITION to President Shavkat Mirziyoev with the request not to involve students in the forced harvesting of cotton in the autumn of 2017
>>> SHARE OUR VIDEO to reach as many people as possible – both in and outside of Uzbekistan!

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Dear President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev,

With this petition we ask you to stop forced mobilization of students and public-sector workers to pick cotton during 2017 harvest.

Every year with the start of the cotton season, hundreds of thousands of Uzbek citizens are sent to the fields against their will to pick cotton.

Mobilization to pick cotton is called “khashar” which means voluntary work on the cotton fields to make additional income. However, in most cases, students, education and healthcare workers are forced to pick cotton under threats of job termination or expulsion from universities.

Coercion to perform any type of work under the threat of punishment is prohibited by Uzbekistan’s laws and by international treaties that Uzbekistan is a party of.

Students’ parents spend enormous amounts of money to help their children prepare for and enter the college. Students are the most educated part of population who are supposed to move our country forward. You claimed multiple times that it is necessary to create better conditions for youth development and education in order to promote prosperous and thriving Uzbekistan.

However, the reality is that every time with the beginning of school year, students are sent to hand-pick cotton, while their peers in other countries are learning in classrooms and moving their countries towards further development and progress. Cotton harvest lasts for up to 2 months, at the same time not leaving a chance for students to get an education they need and for their future profession. A country where future doctors, engineers and teachers are forced to perform unqualified labor in the fields will barely keep up competing with countries that make education a top priority.

Forced participation in cotton harvest does not only have negative impact on quality of education, it harms health and well-being of our nation. Important sectors like education and healthcare should be free of forced labor in agriculture.

There are enough people in Uzbekistan that lack full-time employment that could pick cotton voluntarily. To employ those people we need to lift mandatory quota for farmers so that they could increase pay rates for picking cotton. This pay should be sufficient for those workers to take care of themselves and their families.

There is no doubt that work of hired workers will be more effective since they will have incentives to make as much money as possible. Attracting unemployed workforce for harvesting cotton for a fair pay will be a positive factor in improving life quality in rural areas and will make migrant workers return home and unite with their families.

We are very hopeful of your claims to reform Uzbekistan and we value special attention you give to the youth. Thus, exemption of hundreds of thousands of people from this servitude-like duty will be consistent with the course of reforms.

We are confident that this step will be highly regarded not only inside of the country but also in the outside realm and will improve reputation of Uzbekistan on the international arena.

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Video: © David Oldenburg