On November 12, Uzbek police raided the home of journalist and human rights activist Malokhat Eshonkulova and confiscated some of her belongings, including electric heaters, in a nearly 11-hour search for her computer and cell phone. Subsequently, on December 7, Malokhat was detained at the airport and denied exit from Uzbekistan on her way to a labor rights seminar to present on forced labor of children and adults in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. It is clear that Malokhat is being increasingly targeted for her work monitoring forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s government-run cotton harvest.
Malokhat now faces $1400 in fines in retaliation for raising complaints about forced labor, and authorities are using an antiquated registry permit system from Soviet times to threaten Malokhat with internal deportation from the capital region of Tashkent, where she lives with her family, to a remote region of the country. Partners within the Cotton Campaign are organizing to help with her legal costs, but we must ensure these attacks do not continue so Malokhat’s voice to illuminate human rights violations in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry is not silenced. Please sign this petition today, which will be sent to President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
To President Shavkat Mirziyoyev:
I am encouraged by the Uzbek government’s desire to reduce forced labor and end the mass mobilization of Uzbek citizens during the cotton harvest, including your address at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017 and recent steps taken to recall students, educators and medical workers from the fields. But more must be done to ensure human rights activists like Malokhat Eshonkulova, working to monitor the situation on the ground, can do so freely without harassment or threat by authorities.
Ms. Eshonkulova faces $1400 in fines, having been charged with ‘unauthorized pickets’, and has been threatened with deportation from her home in Tashkent using the registry permit system. I believe that these legal proceedings are a ruse and that Ms. Eshonkulova is actually being harassed for her work monitoring and exposing forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.
Malokhat Eshonkulova’s work is critical to protecting the rights of all Uzbek citizens. The harassment of activists like Ms. Eshonkulova is a clear dereliction from the Uzbek government’s stated desire to reduce forced labor.
We call on you and the Uzbek government to stop all legal proceedings against Ms. Eshonkulova so that she can continue her important work without fear of threat or retaliation.