On November 23, 2016 the human rights activist Elena Urlaeva picketed in front of the Ministries’ administration building. The reason for the picket was to draw attention to the decision of the Ministries’ administration to mobilize all public employees to the cotton harvest.
This information was made known in a letter from Mr. Makhmudov, the acting prosecutor of the Chinaz district of the Tashkent region. He had responded to a complaint by Urlaeva about the forced mobilization of medical workers and teachers during the cotton harvest. The district prosecutor confirmed a protocol of the Cabinet of Ministers of July 20, 2016 in which he quoted:
“Measures for the harvest of the 2016 cotton crop, with enthusiasm and without loss, requires all employees to participate in the harvest.”
According to Urlaeva, her presence was soon interrupted by police officers. She was surrounded by policemen, who confiscated her placard and took her into the Ministries’ administration building for questioning.
An employee of the Ministries’ administration, Yusupov, spoke to Urlaeva and took her statement. After formalities, he began criticizing her for causing substantial damage to the state budget because of her cotton harvest monitoring activities. He also added that Uzbekistan had failed to fulfill the cotton quota because of Urlaeva and three others like her.
Yusupov claimed that Urlaeva had caused problems when the state had involved people to pick cotton. He added that they had had no such problems when forcing children to pick cotton without interference. He let Elena know that there wouldn’t be any response given to Elena’s statement and letters of complaint and accused her of trying to access secret information.
There were three other employees in the room who witnessed every word that Yusupov said.
“It is crucial for human rights activists to find out exactly who is making such decisions and forcing people to pick cotton. This particular decision of the Ministries’ administration was most likely signed by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, currently acting president of the state“, said Urlaeva in her statement which was published on November 23, 2016”.