Uzbek Human Rights Activist Elena Urlaeva Released

Uzbek Human Rights Activist Elena Urlaeva Released

Uzbek human rights defender Elena Urlaeva was released from a psychiatric hospital in Tashkent yesterday where she was imprisoned for 23 days with neither her consent nor a court order to forcibly treat her, according to the Cotton Campaign. Urlaeva’s release follows an international campaign spearheaded by the Cotton Campaign, a global coalition of labor, human rights, investor and business organizations that includes the Solidarity Center.

Urlaeva was detained and beaten by Uzbekistan police the day before she was due to meet with representatives from the International Labor Organization (ILO), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the World Bank to discuss state-led forced labor in Uzbekistan.

Urlaeva Repeatedly Detained for Documenting Forced Labor

Urlaeva has documented forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields for the past 16 years, and has repeatedly been arrested, beaten and imprisoned by Uzbek officials. Last year, she was imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for more than a month and arrested five times as she spoke with people forced by the government to labor in the country’s cotton fields. She was physically assaulted during the subsequent interrogation. In 2015, Urlaeva was arrested, beaten and forced to injest sedatives, and police confiscated her camera, notebook and information sheet on ILO labor rights conventions.

“A number of times I was put into a psychiatry ward,” says Urlaeva in a video released last November. “They did their best to show to the international community that human rights activists are crazy and they should not be listened to.”

Child Labor Growing in Uzbekistan Cotton Fields

Each fall harvest, some 1 million teachers, medical professionals and others are forced to toil in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. If they do not participate, they must pay for a replacement worker or lose their jobs. Children also are forced to pick cotton, according to a preliminarily report by the Uzbek-German Forum, reversing a move away from use of child labor in 2013 and 2014.

Uzbekistan, which gets an estimated $1 billion per year in revenue from cotton sales, faced high penalties from the World Bank and other financial institutions for not ending the practice. Rather than change, the government seeks to cover it up.

Urlaeva has been credited with helping significantly reduce child labor in cotton fields, and this year was among human rights defenders in Uzbekistan to receive the International Labor Rights Forum 2016 Labor Rights Defenders Award.

Uzbekistan among 13 Countries at Bottom of Child Labor Report

Child-Labor-Report-2013In Uzbekistan, empty classrooms and children working in cotton fields during the annual fall cotton harvest contributed to the country’s ranking as among those with the worst forms of child labor in the world, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The annual “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor” placed Uzbekistan among 12 other countries at the bottom of the report’s rankings and one of three, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Eritrea, that received the assessment as a result of government complicity in forced child labor.

The report assesses efforts by more than 140 countries to reduce the worst forms of child labor and indicates whether countries have made significant, moderate, minimal or no advancement over the previous year. Thirteen countries were cited as making significant advancement, compared with 10 countries in last year’s report. Among them: Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, South Africa and Tunisia.

Through a detailed country-by-country description, the report includes data on children’s work and education, national laws and regulations regarding child labor and other key information. Globally, 10 percent of the world’s children—168 million children, of whom 85 million labor in hazardous work—toil in factories, mines and farms, unable to attend school.

Regionally, the report cites sub-Saharan Africa, home to 30 percent of the world’s child laborers, as the area with the largest number of children working in hazardous conditions. An estimated 59 million children ages 5–17 are engaged in child labor in sub-Saharan Africa, or 21.4 percent of all children in the region.

Elsewhere, 77.8 million children ages 5–17 are engaged in child labor in the Asia and Pacific region, some 9.3 percent of all children in the region. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 12.5 million children work, accounting for 8 percent of all children in the region. In the Middle East and North Africa, 9.2 million children—8 percent of all children in the region—are engaged in child labor.

A list of goods produced by child or forced labor also is included as part of the report, which this year is dedicated to retiring Rep. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Harkin, a champion of worker rights, has long led the fight to end child labor globally, and spearheaded legislation in 2000 that mandated compilation of the annual “Findings of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.”

Pin It on Pinterest