This report looks in detail at the 2018 cotton harvest in Turkmenistan and sums up suggestions from farmers on how to end the problem of forced labor once and for all.
Conscripts were sent to pick cotton in several districts in the southeast Mary region at the end of November. They wore military uniform and travelled to the fields in army Ural and Kamaz trucks.
Every day dentists, assistants and support staff at the Mary Сity Dental Сenter – five people in all – are forced to work in the cotton fields. The list of employees sent to pick cotton is updated weekly and displayed at the Center reception, located on Gowshut Khan street.
Night-time temperatures already fell below zero in the first 10 days of November. It’s cold during the day too, but people are still being sent from the cities to the cotton fields. This will continue until the capital gives the go-ahead for the end of the cotton season.
Instead of changing this long running practice in order to ease the pressure and criticism from the international community, the government of Turkmenistan is carrying on as it always does – using threats and blackmail to force people from different professions to take part in the cotton campaign.
Governor Tangryguly Atakhallyev treats local employees, directors of administrations and departments, like dirt. He insists that they are in the cotton fields day and night and get cotton out of nowhere. But what can they do if there’s no cotton?
In Turkmenistan, it is half-way through the cotton harvesting season. Despite the crop failure and empty cotton fields, local government officials hold daily meetings with chiefs of institutions and demand more people in the fields and more cotton to meet the state plan.
Dozens of people have been injured in a bus accident. The crash occurred on August 31st in the eastern city of Turkmenabat. The roughly 40 people on board were kindergarten and secondary school staff traveling to pick cotton.
In Mary province, employees of the local state sewing factory each had to pay around $1.5 on August 27 to lease city buses in order to send workers to the cotton fields. The sum would cover a 10-day lease of the public buses, after which another local government institution will cover the transport costs, and the factory staff will go to pick cotton.