According to several independent sources of Ozodlik in the Nishon district of the Qashqadaryo Region, 5-9th grade pupils studying in different schools in the Qashqadaryo Region have been forcibly sent to pick cotton. Furthermore, pupils are forced to pick cotton even when it is raining. As for teachers, they have been picking cotton from the very beginning of the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. However, the regional government denies any information about forcing pupils to pick cotton.
5-9th grade pupils of schools No.11, 35 and 9 in the Nishon district were mobilized to pick cotton.
According to Ozodlik, an anonymous source from one of these schools reported that pupils have been forced to pick cotton regardless of cold weather and rain:
“For instance, it has been raining since 3 pm yesterday. Nonetheless, pupils were taken to the cotton field even though the cotton was wet and the field was muddy. All senior pupils starting from the fifth grade of schools No.11 and 35 as well as pupils from all schools of the 9th agricultural zone were mobilized to pick cotton. Only junior grade pupils are exempt from cotton picking.”
As one of the Makhalla activists from the village of Qodiriy in the Nishon district informed Ozodlik, 8-9th grade pupils are being sent to pick cotton.
“For example, 7th, 8th and 9th grade students of the “Furkat” primary school were released from classes and sent to pick cotton. Pupils from another school located in the 32nd farming area were also sent to pick cotton. On Saturdays there are no classes. 1-6th grade pupils are given days off as all of the teachers have been sent to pick cotton.”
According to another source of Ozodlik who works as a teacher, the Khokim of the Nishon district, Asror Juraev, runs a ‘policy of compulsion’ and has ordered school principals to mobilize pupils for picking cotton.
“The previous Khokim did not force schoolchildren to pick cotton. The current one is different. He is worse. He literally walks from door to door and tells people to go and pick cotton. But there is nowhere to stay. They stopped giving us helium balloons. People are forced to cook on an open fire after coming back from the cotton fields. All bazaars have been closed and the police are forcing people out of the bazaars by beating them. That is unacceptable and causes a lot of problems”.
Ozodlik tried to contact a Khokim of the Qashqadaryo Region to obtain some comments. However, the official who introduced himself as an assistant of the Khokim, denied the information about the use of forced labour.
“Who told you this? Are you saying that 5th grade pupils have been sent to pick cotton? That is not true at all! People can say anything. There are a lot of silly people in this world. Kids have not been forced to pick cotton. Only employees might have been sent to pick cotton.”
October 14, 2016