The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a law enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO), formally banning the importation of “all Turkmenistan cotton or products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton.”
Police officers arrested Matalaev at home during the night, just two days after ATN published his forced labour report and the day the Minister of National Security was severely reprimanded by the Turkmen President at a State Security Council meeting for weak control over subordinates in the country.
People were happy to work where they could receive a pay of 0.2 manat per kilogram of cotton, and where they were treated respectfully. However, such conditions were rare. The only way for public servants and replacement workers to protest the conditions of forced labor was to pick less.
During the cotton harvest, hands are the most important. For those who manage labor for the harvest, it doesn’t matter if those hands belong to an adult or a child.
We want to see more concrete development examples of the decent work agenda in the entire cotton industry, in addition to an increase in transparency and openness of monitoring working conditions by independent international and local civil society organizations.
Nothing changed from the past years: we carried special clothing, aprons and a packed lunch. Our salary is maintained during the harvest. The only difference with previous years was the fee they gave us for the collection.
Since the Turkmenistan authorities have introduced unprecedented efforts to block information coming out of the country, especially when it comes to cotton picking (see the new release below), ATN is refraining from publishing photo evidence of the use of forced labor this season, though that does not mean that our monitors have stopped their activities.…
The Farab district is a backward area that is often criticized by regional authorities and the government, and therefore the local administration head Hasan Metkuliev is prepared to overlook any kind of offences and violations of human rights, only to be able to report well on the cotton harvesting targets.
The Uzbek and Turkmen governments both funnel hundreds of millions of dollars from annual cotton sales, by conservative estimates, into non-transparent, unaccountable funds only accessible to government elite.