Uzbek activists detained for photographing child labor
Business and Economics, Media and Internet, Photoblog, Uzbekistan6 Comments
In Uzbekistan, photography – and other forms of media relations and human rights activities – are carefully watched and monitored by the state.
On September 15th, Gulshan Karayeva and Nodir Ahatov – members of an unregistered Uzbekistan’s Human Rights society – were held by authorities for 10 hours for their act of photographing injustice, for “… taking pictures of schoolchildren picking cotton in the southern Kashkadarya region.”
The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Uzbek Service quotes activist Karayeva saying:
“We saw the fourth-graders picking the cotton as we were monitoring allegations of child labor in our region.”
“[The students] pick cotton from the early morning till the afternoon and then they are supposed to go to school afterward.”
RFE/RL informs that the women’s notes, which included names of children being labored, and digital camera cards were confiscated by Koson district police.
The world would most definitely benefit from seeing and learning from the photos Karayeva and Ahatov took.
In March 2007, Leila’s neweurasia post “Cotton Picking in Uzbekistan: Photos and Opinions” highlighted the reality of child labor by reposting photos of pure evidence.
In May 2011, Abufazal neweurasia’s post “Gymboree gets rid of Uzbek cotton picked by kids. Who’s next?” brought to light how with awareness and pressure, many organizations choose to favour children’s human rights over doing business with one of the world’s leading cotton industries.
And in September 2011, the issue of forced Uzbek child cotton labor remains steadfast, both via the local work of Karayeva and Ahatov and in the stylish – or better said, ‘unstylish’ – international fashion scene of the Mercedes Benz sponsored New York Fashion Week.
Daughter of President Islam Karimov, Gulnara Karimova – Uzbekistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, ambassador to Spain and fashion designer – has been ‘stylishly’ shooed and silenced, many times over.
New York Post pins-the-nail-right-on-the-head, saying: “Murderous tyrants are out of fashion.”
On September 9th, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said:
“The decision by New York Fashion Week to cancel a show by the daughter of Uzbekistan’s abusive ruler sends a message to the Uzbek government that its appalling human rights record is of global concern…”
Steve Swerdlow, Uzbekistan researcher at HRW says:
“Enslaving children and torturing dissidents is never chic.”
“We’re glad Fashion Week will not showcase a designer who represents such a repressive government. They’re sending the message that abusers shouldn’t be allowed to launder their image at the expense of human rights.”
The Responsible Social Network (RSN) informs that close to 2 million Uzbek children work on the country’s cotton fields for some 2 or 3 months per year. Some as young as 7 years old, working some 10 hours a day, are to uphold a quota of 100 pounds of cotton per day.
Refusing to accept children picking the cotton that make clothing to be sold in stores – 60+ of world famous clothing companies and brands, representing 800+ brands, “have signed a pledge to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton harvested using forced child labor. The companies will maintain this pledge until the elimination of this practice is independently verified by the International Labour Organization (ILO),” says RSN.
In June 2011, the human rights website “Stop Forced and Child Labor in The Cotton Industry of Uzbekistan!” highlighted a letter signed by 18 organizations, issued to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raising awareness toward “concern at the failure to downgrade Uzbekistan to Tier 3 on the US Watchlist in the State Department’s report on Global Trafficking in Persons (G-TIP).”
Here’s to Uzbek activists Karayeva and Ahatov, for doing all they can to bring light to the unjust cotton fields of Uzbekistan, which are stained with the fingerprints of innocent children.
Karayeva and Ahatov’s case is yet another sheer example of how truthful and uncensored media threatens the regime and the secrets it holds that in fact fail to be kept secret – particularly when honest documentation gets involved.
Photos provided by Uzbek human rights activists from Karshi, Kashkadarya.