© Simon Buxton / Anti-Slavery

“Why should I leave my kid and pick cotton?”

“I was born in 1994 in Andijan. I have a child. I was accepted for studies in one of Andijan’s universities. I was given a scholarship for my studies, too. Nevertheless, just a week after my studies had begun, we were all taken to pick cotton.

Even though I have a son and I have to look after him, my teacher and dean told me that I was forced to pick cotton.

‘It is a political order, and you will be expelled from your studies if you refuse to pick cotton. It does not really matter whether you have child or not.’

There are three students with children in our group. One of them approached our head teacher and explained her that he could not leave his kid. The head teacher requested 150 US dollars to make him excempt from cotton picking. Afterwards, another student and myself approached the same teacher. She increased the fee after seeing that there are more of us. She was asking for 200 US dollars from each of us.

‘The rest will pay 300 US dollars’, she told us. So, I submitted my marriage certificate, my child’s birth certificate and 150 US dollars to the head teacher. However, she called me back just 5 days after to say that I still would have to pay the outstanding 50 US dollars. I have to confess, I was arguing with her. She told me that after all her ‘father works in the state apparatus and nobody could do any harm to her’.

Is it right that I have to pick cotton now, even though I have a child? And, is it normal that I paid 150 US dollars and was still treated this way?”