Cotton crimes campaignWatch: forced labour in Uzbekistan's cotton industry explained in two minutes
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are countries in Central Asia, which are one of the biggest exporters of cotton in the world. What they have in common is a forced labour system that they both employ to grow and pick cotton, benefitting a small elite of those in power at the expense of their citizens.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including children, are forced out of their regular jobs and schools and sent to the cotton fields to toil for weeks in arduous and hazardous conditions, with cases of people dying in fields from extreme heat and accidents.
Farmers are forced to fulfil cotton growing quota, businesses of all sizes are forced to contribute financially to the harvest, and massive bribes are extorted from citizens by corrupt officials. Public services such as education and health care are severely affected during the harvest.
Those who refuse to participate face punishment, and activists trying to monitor the situation are routinely harassed and abused by the totalitarian regimes.
If you think that forced labour in Uzbekistan doesn’t affect you, think again. Most of Uzbek and Turkmen cotton is exported to Bangladesh and China, which in turn are major producers of clothing for the rest of the world. It is very likely that whilst reading this you are wearing a piece of garment made with Uzbek or Turkmen cotton.
We want to change this. That’s why we’ve been working to call upon international institutions and the private sector to help end Cotton Crimes and put pressure on the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to do so.
We’ve had successes, not least stopping the use of children on a systematic scale in Uzbekistan
. But we won’t stop until the cotton from Central Asia is truly slavery free.
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