24 february 2020

Central Asia news

Two more cotton pickers died in Uzbekistan in the field

19.10.2017 03:47 msk


60-year-old farmer Davron Davronbekov and 58-year-old prisoner Nazhmiddin Sarimsokov fell victims to forced labour in Uzbekistan in October.

Cotton pickers. Photo by Timur Karpov

According to Ozodlik Radio (Uzbek service of Radio Liberty), Davronbekov drowned in a ditch filled with water near a cotton field in the Fergana region. Only five days later his body emerged on the surface of the water.

Davronbekov lived in the village of Sharkobod in the Sokh district of the Ferghana region, had a garden of several hectares. He arrived to pick cotton in the Rishtan district on 10 October, and the next day he did not appear on the roll call, the chief of the cotton staff conducted.

"Then we joked that Davron-aka [reverent expression - note by Fergana] fled home," says one of his fellow villagers, who came to collect cotton with him. "None of us paid attention to his disappearance, and we continued to collect cotton. But on 16 October, Davronbekov's body was found in a ditch near the field. The ditch is very deep, like a large canal, a person can easily drown in it. The body of Davron-aka surfaced a few days later and stuck at the edge of the ditch."

The source of Ozodlik Radio reports that more than 250 residents of the Sokh district have been collecting cotton in the Rishtan fields for over a month already "allegedly at their own will. In fact, all these people were sent to the cotton [field] forcibly. Among them, there are heads and workers of horticultural farms, technical workers of schools and nurseries of Rishtan district. Every ten to fifteen days other cotton pickers from Sokh replace them."

However, an unnamed employee of the khokimiyat (administration) of Rishtan district tells Ozodlik Radio that Davronbekov came at his will. He confirms the death of the collector noting that nobody had seen how it happened. According to him, experts examined Davronbekov's body, after which he was taken home to the Sokh district. The district prosecutor's office investigates this case.

On 17 October, the Uzbek service of the BBC reported the death of the prisoner Nazhmiddin Sarimsokov. According to relatives, earlier he had sustained two heart attacks, doctors forbade him to carry weights. But the prison, like other prisoners, forced him to collect cotton setting a norm of 100 kilogrammes a day.

On the morning of 8 October, Sarimsokov suddenly felt pain in his heart on his way to the field. Arrived doctors connected him to the device of artificial ventilation, but it did not help: the prisoner died of cardiac infarction.

According to his relatives, Sarimsokov complained of pain in his legs: "He wanted us to bring him shoes in return for what was available, which gets wet. He asked to come in the morning or the evening because in the afternoon he had to be in the field. And the next morning we found out about his death."

Davronbekov and Sarimsokov joined the list of victims of the cotton picking campaign of 2017. It included, in particular, the 28-year-old Lobar Ashurova, who died on 20 September from internal bleeding, having been forced to lie for three days in the field camp without medical assistance. Unable to withstand physical exertions, a 58-year-old resident of the city of Andijan, Muzaffar Umrzakov, died of a heart attack in the cotton field on 16 September. Abdurakhim Khudoikulov, 54, a resident of the Ferghana region, died in the field in the Syrdarya region due to a sharp fall in blood pressure.

This year, the Uzbek authorities promised not to force people to collect cotton, but they could not keep their words.

Fergana News Agency