Cotton Production in Turkmenistan: Use of Forced Labor in an Inefficient System
The president of Turkmenistan has instructed the heads of three regions – Ahal, Balkan, and Lebap – to gather in the remains of the cotton harvest by December 25. He gave the order at a working meeting on December 16.
The public are baffled by the president’s instruction: if the state plan for the cotton harvest was met by early November, how come the harvest is dragging on right up to the New Year holidays? How come Ahal is named as one of the regions, when it was first to report completion of the state order? How come the president did not mention two other regions – Mary and Dashoguz? Has all the cotton been picked there down to the very last boll?
The latter indirectly confirms the suspicions of cotton producers that the harvest plan had not actually been met in those three regions of the country, contrary to reports.
Public sector employees, including teachers, nurses, and postmen, are alarmed by the president’s instruction. Are they really going to have to go to the cotton fields again to bring in the remains of the crop, just when they’ve given a sigh of relief to be back in their real jobs?
“People are tired of forced labor, of having to do work that isn’t their job, of having to fork out money to hire pickers in their place, of not being able to stand up for their rights without the threat of the sack,” turkmen.news observer in Lebap region said. He sent this photo to us.
“Doýduk” translates from Turkmen as “we’re full” or “we’re fed up” or “we’re sick of it”. This is the word spelt out in the field in the last remaining cotton bolls. It’s what Turkmen have been saying over the past few days, as they are about to be sent again as forced labor to the cotton fields on pain of dismissal. It looks as though the authorities don’t listen to the people, but they might at least notice this silent, striking, protest in cotton.
At present conscripts are picking cotton in Lebap and Mary regions. Over the season tens of thousands of public sector workers have been drafted in to the cotton harvest. In the majority of cases workers have had to pay to hire the unemployed to go to the fields in their place.
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