Dark Side of the "White Gold" of Uzbekistan
The Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) supports the campaign against forced labor and persecution of human rights defenders in Uzbekistan. The country officials have created one of the largest public systems of forced labor, designed to ensure the production of cotton—the "white gold" of Uzbekistan.
Since the Soviet times Uzbek officials used to involve child labour in harvesting cotton. Three years ago, after long-standing pressure from trade unions, human rights activists and international institutions, the Uzbek government has agreed to renounce the use of child labor. This commitment is carried out to date. However, child labor was replaced by forced adult labor. Every year, thousands of doctors, teachers, state employees and students are picking cotton under the threat of dismissal from their jobs, eviction from their houses and hostels, expulsion from educational institutions, pressure on the family and other repression threats. Commercial companies are also receive orders for sending their employees to the cotton fields—and there is no way to refuse.
Trade unions and human rights organizations are campaigning to end this practice. Independent observers are documenting what is happening in the cotton fields, and then being harassed by the officials. The facts of repressions were documented in the report of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, published in March 2016 "The Cover Up: Whitewashing Uzbekistan's White Gold."
One of the human rights defenders Uktam Pardaev from the city of Jizzakh had been put in jail for eight weeks, where he was beaten and abused, and then was sentenced to three years' probation. Right now the LabourStart portal is holding an electronic campaign in his defense.
The president of the KTR and a member of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights of Russian Federation Boris Kravchenko said: "Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) fully supports the campaign against forced labor in Uzbekistan, and its demands to cease the persecution of human rights defenders documenting the situation in the cotton fields. For us it is a question of solidarity. But this is also the question of fundamental human rights, violation of which in one country of the region, especially such large-scale and systematic as in the case of Uzbek cotton, creates a dangerous precedent for every other country."
Boris Kravchenko noted: "Only independent trade union organizations can effectively resist the system of forced labor and exploitation, but in Uzbekistan, their creation and activity are met insurmountable obstacles. The international community and financial institutions should be more attentive to the issue of compliance with the basic standards of labor rights and other human rights while implementating partnerships and investment programs in the country."