Uzbekistan: Teachers forced to collect cotton in Tashkent region under threat of dismissal
Employees of all schools and kindergartens of the Parkent district of the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan are forced to participate in the cotton harvest campaign, the leader of the PAU (Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan), Elena Urlayeva reports.
Employees of the kindergarten No. 17 of the Parkent district, who will go to collect cotton. Photo by Elena Urlayeva
Zulhumor Yorova, the head of the kindergarten # 17 in Zarkent village, told about it when she came to the human rights activist for help: she fell out of favour with the khokim (head of the administration) of the Parkent district Nemat Abdullaev, and he demands her dismissal, threatening reprisal and imprisonment.
The reason was Yorova's complaint to one of the senators about the problems with sewerage in her kindergarten, as well as the fact that the heads of all 18 pre-school nurseries of the district are forced to extort money from the parents of the pupils and pay bribe to the district education administration or the khokimiyat (district administration) at the request of the latter.
Zulhumor Yorova tells the human rights defender about the condition of the sewerage system in kindergarten # 17. Photo by Elena Urlayeva
Yorova told Urlayeva that in August 2017, khokim Abdullayev ordered to set up teams of cotton pickers from employees of kindergartens and schools to harvest cotton in September and October 2017. From those who refuse to go to the fields have to hire season workers instead of themselves. Yorova handed over a list of thirteen employees of kindergarten # 17, who decided to send other people instead. According to her, they are afraid of dismissal from work, so they are preparing for a trip to the fields.
On the last day of August, Elena Urlayeva visited a kindergarten in the village of Zarkent, where the workers confirmed the words of the head. The human rights activist also visited school # 15 in Zarkent, where a pedagogical council took place at the time of her arrival. It also discussed the participation in the collection of cotton: 22 employees of this school registered in a squad of cotton pickers under the threat of dismissal.
The pedagogical council at school # 15. Photo by Elena Urlayeva
According to Urlaeva, teachers are afraid to complain anywhere, although they know about the decision of the Uzbek government to ban the involvement of health workers and the education sector in the collection of cotton. "Members of the Human Rights Alliance intend to protect employees of the public education from coercion to work in cotton fields and plans to picket the residence of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to attract his attention to the execution of his decrees," Urlayeva promised.
Cotton is a strategic raw material for Uzbekistan, and the authorities, despite all their assurances and declarations, do not know or do not want to know another way to collect it, in addition to mobilising hundreds of thousands of residents of the country whose main activity is not related to agriculture. Teachers, doctors, students, workers of enterprises, spheres of culture and so on suffer the most. Until recently, minors worked in cotton fields on a massive scale.