The hokim of the Andijan region, Shukhratbek Abdurakhmanov, who at the end of September 2017 warned local leaders about the criminal punishment they would face for coercively involving employees of public organizations in the collection of cotton, has again sent medical workers and teachers to work in the cotton fields. The regional administration rejected accusations of the use of forced labor and stated that employees of state organizations, as well as employees of special services, have been collecting cotton on a voluntary basis.
A senior nurse working in a hospital in Andijan gave the following account to “Ozodlik” in an interview on October 3:
“On Saturday, a work-for-the-nation day was announced to nurses and nurses’ aides. We all went to pick cotton. It rained on Monday, but despite all this we picked cotton. During the meeting, the hokim said to us: “If someone asks you why you are picking cotton, tell them that you are collecting cotton on a voluntary basis during your free time or during vacation”. Today, a teacher was taken to the Republican Scientific Center for Emergency Medical Care after she felt sick while harvesting cotton. It turns out that in Andijan even teachers have been sent to pick cotton”.
According to the nurse, staff of rural medical departments in Altynkul and Andijan districts, including senior nurses in the Ulugnar region have also been sent to collect cotton.
Ozodlik was told by a teacher working in the secondary school No. 31 in the Shahrihansky district of the Andijan region and who wished to remain anonymous, that local authorities had sent ten teachers from every school to pick cotton every day:
“We felt so happy when the regional hokim stated that “compulsory involvement in the collection of cotton is a crime”. But our joy did not last long. Now we take it in turns to collect cotton. As far as I know, our colleagues from the 1st and 38th schools in the Shahrihansky district have also been sent to collect cotton”, said the Andijan teacher.
In a conversation with Ozodlik’s reporter, the head of one of the cotton deployments who works as a school director said that this year, during the cotton campaign, local authorities continued to conduct “aggressive and violent policies against people”:
“It is impossible to tolerate swearing and insults coming from the mouth of the regional hokim during the meetings devoted to cotton. He calls people “beggars” and “dogs”. On October 1, during Teacher’s Day, in the Andijan region, less cotton than usual was collected. This angered the regional hokim, who, during the next conference, announced that he did not care about their holidays”. These words came from the mouth of a man who recently said that “the involvement of teachers in the collection of cotton is a crime”. Mr. Hokim can make promises, but he can also renege on his promises. All our hokims are like that”, said one of the leaders of the cotton deployment.
However, an unidentified employee of the hokimiyat (administration) of the Andijan region denied the involvement of “state employees” for the collection of cotton. He told Ozodlik:
“Cotton is our national wealth. Any conscientious person should help our farmers. To this end, in the regional villages, groups of cotton pickers were created among the unemployed. In addition to that, our police and employees of the National Security Service volunteered to collect cotton. The hokim of the city of Andijan brought all his family to the fields. All these people went out to collect cotton voluntarily, without being forced by anyone”.
It should be remembered that on September 22 at a meeting in the regional administration of the hokim of the Andijan region, Shukhratbek Abdurakhmanov, told local leaders that anyone who attracted school and college teachers, students and students of medical institutions to do field work, would not only lose their posts, but would also face criminal liability. During this meeting, Shukhratbek Abdurakhmanov said:
“Starting from today (September 22), sending people under the age of 18, employees of state organizations, school teachers and schoolchildren, medical staff or college teachers and students to pick cotton is considered a crime. I am responsible for such offences in the Andijan region. I warn the responsible leaders that if in some area or sector it turns out that this category of citizens is collecting cotton, they will not only lose their job, but will also be held responsible before the law”.