In this guest column written exclusively for Apparel Insider, Lynn Schweisfurth of the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights argues that while the end of systematic forced labour in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan is an important landmark, significant human rights risks remain.
While the Uzbek Government celebrates the end of the boycott of Uzbek cotton following the eradication of systematic, state-imposed forced labour, farmers find themselves at the mercy of a system rigged against them.
“The Kyrgyz authorities say they protect freedom of expression, yet try to silence critical voices and clamp down on independent media through criminal investigations and bogus charges,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should release Taalaibek Duishenbiev, and drop all unfounded charges against him and other media targets that violate the right to freedom of expression.”
Despite the reduction in the number of jobs in Russia and depreciation of the ruble, the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan does not expect a mass return of compatriots. They believe that even if they do return, it will not be for long, as it was the case during the lockdown. The Minister of Economy Daniyar Amangeldiev is sure that Kyrgyz nationals, who were laid off, will find other jobs. If not, the Cabinet will try to redirect them to other countries, as there are few vacancies in Kyrgyzstan.
Toktakunov was involved in the defense of one of the human rights activists who demonstrated the war on Ukraine outside the Russian Embassy in Bishkek on 17 March 2022. During the protest itself, he was video recorded in conversation with police officers outside the Russian Embassy where he made negative remarks about the country’s judges in general. On this basis, judge Ubaibullo Satinkulov sentenced Toktakunov to 5 days jail.
Workers’ unions are pressing their demand this International Workers’ Memorial Day #IWMD22 to finally make health and safety at work a fundamental principle and right.
ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Hundreds of residents of Kazakhstan’s restive town of Zhanaozen have rallied for several days to demand jobs after deadly anti-government protests that shook the country last month. The protesters gathered in front of the town’s administration on February 7, the sixth day of their rallies, saying that 2,500 men and women demand jobs in the local oil industry from the local and central government.
The ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2022 report warns of a slow and uncertain recovery, as the pandemic continues to have a significant impact on global labour markets.
As events in Kazakhstan continue to spook neighboring Central Asian countries whose populations suffer almost identical social grievances, including grand corruption, increasing poverty, and soaring fuel prices, efforts of Uzbekistan’s authorities to stifle criticism of its government have been gathering pace long before the unrest in Kazakhstan erupted in early January of this year. Despite President Mirziyoyev’s much lauded reform program which has focused mainly on the economy, civil and political reforms have lagged well behind. Freedom of speech, freedom of association and the right of civil society groups to register formally as NGOs have failed to see any relaxation of draconian, Soviet-style rules of play. Indeed, the Uzbek government appears to have stepped up its control over the Internet and bloggers and journalists repeatedly receive “invitations” from the authorities to remind them of the boundaries of what they may report on.
The Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and its member organizations have watched the recent events in Kazakhstan with great pain and anxiety. The KTR has for many years been involved in the campaign to build an independent trade union movement in Kazakhstan and to promote and enforce labour and trade union laws that would benefit Kazakhstani workers. The KTR’s long engagement and cooperation with dozens of trade union organizations and thousands of activists in Kazakhstan have shown us that the processes underway there have a direct bearing on progress in labour relations not only in Russia, but also throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The main goal of the Human Rights Alliance will be to facilitate honest and impartial identification of the timeline and course of protests; to analyze law enforcement actions as well as actions of various groups of protesters, reasons behind peaceful protest turning into violent riots; to ensure respect for fundamental rights during investigation and that all the standards of fair trial are in place; to prevent torture and ill-treatment, to guarantee accountability of perpetrators for committed crimes and offences, to guarantee fair and just prosecution of perpetrators and exoneration of innocent individuals; to clearly distinguish peaceful protesters, including political opposition members and civic activists, from those who committed acts of violence.