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Back Into Uzbekistan's Cotton Fields


How far has Uzbekistan gone on ending forced labor in its cotton fields, and how far do the authorities there still need to go?

It is cotton-harvesting time and in fields in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that means tens of thousands of people are out picking cotton -- whether they like it or not.

The difference between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is that the Uzbek government has been making very public efforts to stop the use of forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton fields.

There have been changes to the Uzbek government's long-standing policies on picking cotton since Shavkat Mirziyoev took over as Uzbekistan's leader in late 2016. But how far has Uzbekistan gone on ending forced labor in its cotton fields, and how far do the authorities there still need to go?

RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on what is happening in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan this harvest season.

Joining the talk from Tashkent was Jonas Astrup, chief technical adviser in Uzbekistan for the International Labor Organization.

From Germany, Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (which is also part of an international coalition called the Cotton Campaign), took part.

From RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Laziz Omilov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, who runs the special project Pakhtagram for Ozodlik, also participated.

I had a few things to say as well.

Majlis Podcast: A Reality Check On Uzbekistan's Cotton fields
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Each week, hosts Bruce Pannier and Muhammad Tahir welcome a panel of expert guests to discuss significant political developments and pressing social issues affecting the nations of Central Asia.

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