In Uzbekistan, sick female prisoners are forced to pick cotton

The third month, the administration of the penal colony No.42 (Zangiata district of Tashkent region) forces female prisoners to go to the neighboring region to pick cotton.

Mukhlisa Yusupova, who underwent surgery, was sent to a cotton field. Lola Ganieva with a pin in her leg, and other women with uterus’ fibroid, traumatic brain injury, high degree myopia and a hernia of the spine were sent to the cotton field too. “Even a small investigation of our women’s human rights initiative group showed how glaring information about forced labor in Jizakh region can be,” outraged human rights activist Tatyana Dovlatova.

According to human rights activists, female prisoners have to wash themselves in cold water of the canal. The cost of a bucket of hot water reaches 10 000 soums (a little more than $1). The temperature at night in the region now drops to zero degrees. “Only the one, who picked the cotton in his/her life, will understand how unbearably difficult it is to collect weightless boxes in the cold,” T. Dovlatova emphasizes.

The colony administration established a daily norm of 60 kilograms. Women are allowed to collect 30 kg, and the rest must be purchased from local pickers.

The arithmetic of forced labor is simple: buy cotton from local pickers at 1500 soums per kg, and hand over to the cotton picker for 1000 soums.

In the evening there is a mandatory check in the cold. Those, who have picked less than the norm, are not allowed to have dinner and are forced to stand on the street for two hours until they buy the missing kilograms. Then they have to borrow money from each other. The old mother of Mukhlisa had already borrowed 300 000 soums from relatives and friends at first for surgery, now she has to borrow for “white gold”.

According to the work schedule, time for getting up is 5 am, then a scant breakfast at 5.30, and when it is still dark, everyone is sent to the field. Male prisoners have the norm of 100-120 kg. They are also forced to cover the shortage with the purchase of half of this amount. Overseers threaten to file a non-fulfilment of the norm as a violation of the regime, which entails an increase of the term.

During the visit of human rights defenders to the colony, there were verbal skirmishes with employees and threats of reprisal. “Now they are afraid to resort to measures of physical impact, but there is as much dirt in their insults as they were five years ago,” T. Dovlatova notes. “The colony officers are like under Karimov, they like to repeat: go where you want to complain, even to the President.” All the prisoners, with whom I spoke, allowed me to name their illnesses.”

In September, Uzbekistan ratified the Protocol of 2014 to the Convention of 1930 concerning forced labor. On November 9, an employee of the colony administration tried to force everyone who spoke with human rights defenders to write a statement about a voluntary work on cotton plantation. Such receipts allow the country’s authorities to talk about the eradication of cotton slavery and the ardent desire of citizens to fulfill their patriotic duty.

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