More university students were forced
to work in the fields in 2014.
The Cotton Campaign and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights have documented that the government of Uzbekistan used systematic, mass forced labor in the 2014 cotton harvest, which has recently concluded. In addition to coercing millions of people across the country to pick cotton, this forced labor system resulted in institutionalized harassment, extortion, and needless deaths.
Among the most tragic findings of the report was that 17 people died in the 2014 harvest, six more than last year. In one case, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old died in a house fire after being left alone while their mother, who could not afford to buy herself out of the harvest, went to pick cotton.
“Cotton in Uzbekistan is produced by massive human rights violations, including forced labor, said Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum. “Reducing the number of children in the fields by forcing even more adults to work against their will is not sufficient. The government needs to dismantle the forced labor system.”
Uzbekistan is the fifth largest cotton producer in the world, producing raw cotton mainly for exports. The government controls every aspect of production and imposes mandatory production quotas on farmers and harvesting quotas on pickers. All cotton must be sold to the government at government-established prices. Uzbekistan’s forced cotton harvest is one of the largest state-sponsored forced labor systems in the world.
The Cotton Campaign and RSN called on the United States government and European Union to urge the government of Uzbekistan to end its forced labor system, starting by granting the ILO unfettered access to survey forced labor and initiating agriculture sector reforms.