In some ways, there is nothing surprising about the videos that have been doing the rounds on social media in Uzbekistan. In one, farmers and local officials in a district near Tashkent, the capital, were made to stand in a watery ditch, heads bowed, to show contrition for failing to irrigate wheat fields properly. In another, officials were made to heave heavy clods of clay into the air repeatedly as punishment for allowing such impediments to farming to accumulate on land they are in charge of. Such ritual humiliation is rife in Uzbekistan, where nearly three decades of dictatorship under Islam Karimov, the strongman who died in 2016, bred a culture of bullying and subservience.
On the evening of October 25, the journalist found out that the hokim of the Kushkupir district was holding a meeting with the principals of schools and kindergartens and heads of rural medical institutions to discuss the mobilization of their employees to pick cotton. Ruzmetov immediately went to the hokimiyat and recorded the meeting on his mobile phone. When the hokim noticed the journalist’s presence, he interrupted the meeting.
Teachers in Turkmenistan’s second largest city, Turkmenabat, are having to spend their fall break picking cotton. Schools closed on October 21st for the whole nine-day break for the first time in 15 years, and teachers and maintenance staff are having to work in the cotton fields every day.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan granted the petition of FIDH member organization Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan challenging the lower court’s designation of reports by Bir Duino and Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial” as “extremist” and banning the activities of ADC “Memorial”. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) welcomes the decision, but calls on the judicial authorities to stop any judicial harassment against the two NGOs or censure of their reports upon reconsideration
In March this year, during the review of the official website of the KR Ministry of Justice, a list of extremist materials was found in the Activities section. Upon careful examination, it was revealed that in the document entitled "List of legal entities and Internet sites banned on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic" item No. 26 in the column "Name of legal entity (organization)" contained the following: Report of ADC Memorial submitted by the Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan and the human rights organization Freedom House entitled: "A Chronicle of Violence: the Events in the South of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 (Osh region)", and in the column "Grounds for including a legal entity in the List": "Decision of Oktyabrskiy District Court of Bishkek as of 05.01.17", and in the final column "Category of legal entity (organization)" it is indicated: "Extremist".
The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF) continues to monitor forced labor during this year’s cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. UGF monitors collecting information in seven out of Uzbekistan’s 13 regions are recording massive forced mobilization to pick cotton or the demand to pay for replacement workers.