Fifth-grader in Karalpakstan, Uzbekistan picking cotton. Photo by Uzbek-German Forum.
The Cotton Coalition (where I worked as a web editor for two years) regrettably pulled their punches when it came to the ill-advised ILO mission to Uzbekistan this year.
The mission shouldn't have gone, because they couldn't get all the conditions they needed to do a proper independent monitoring without interference. They then participate in the sealing of a bad situation instead of maintaining standards.
As I pointed out, no human rights groups should have endorsed this and should have loudly and forcefully condemned it.
That's what you do when you're an NGO and not a government.
Yet, the Cotton Campaign (funded by the Soros Foundations, although EurasiaNet, also funded by the Soros Foundations doesn't tell you that) cautiously welcomed this rigged "monitoring" visit.
Human Rights Watch signed their cautious welcome, yet their Uzbek researcher still felt called upon to object to the conditions:
Campaigners are concerned that the observers will not gain unfettered access to the cotton fields. “It is essential that monitoring teams be comprised only of independent observers and not include any Uzbek officials,” Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia Researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, told EurasiaNet.org.
Yet surely HRW knows that it's too late to insist on conditions when the mission is already deployed and the bad terms already set. While HRW received $100 million from the Soros Foundations to establish them as the leading human rights group in the world, they should have long ago told the Soros strategists that they were withdrawing from the Cotton Campaign because it was ineffective and wishy-washy when it needed to be strong.
I don't understand how it is that the Cotton Campaign couldn't keep its distance from both State and the ILO on this, but I think it has to do with a variety of factors:
o the wish to stay "engaged" -- these post-Soviet authoritarians are masters at guilt-tripping liberals into staying involved with them for fear that they are "missing opportunities" or "moving the goal-posts" or "never being able to say yes". The fact is, the only things these regimes understand is a consistent "no," pressure, and the refusal to legitimize
o possible promises from State that they'd either move Uzbekistan down to tier 3 on the trafficking report, or some other gesture -- I've been told by officials myself that "after 2014, things will get better" because the US won't be under pressure to maintain the NDN;
o former State Department officials who have revolved into Soros or Human Rights Watch or other groups who feel beholden to their old comrades and/or a perspective that says you must "stay engaged"; Tom Malinowski, the former advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, a former Clinton Administration official and great engager of Russia and the post-Soviet countries, is now Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; HRW received $100 million from the Soros Foundations;
o some members of the coalition, i.e. in the apparels industry, who don't want to appear too radical.
Well, all of these issues are endemic to any coalition that ranges from radical to conservative on an issue. There are reasons to keep coalitions like this going, but individual members should feel they can step out and criticize Uzbekistan when they need to.
Today the Chronicle of Forced Labor translated a broadcast from Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe's Uzbekistan service, Radio Ozodlik: International Monitors are still in Uzbekistan:
International Monitors are still in Uzbekistan: Authorities are instructing students what to say to them
A father whose child studies at Yangier Construction and Communal Services Vocational high school in Syrdarya region, called Radio Liberty. After requesting anonymity, he reported on a meeting between the international monitors and students of his child’s high school on October 22.
Prior to the meeting, all the first-year students (ages 15-16), who recently returned from one month picking cotton, received special training on what to say to the visitors and were thoroughly coached.
"My daughter told me that her teacher told them that a commission is coming to visit, so they need to teach the students what to say to the commission. The director himself came and taught the students what to answer if they are asked questions. While in the cotton fields, these children were taught what to say to anyone who asked. Back at the school, they were taught to say that they didn't go to pick cotton, that they studied, that their facilities are great and warm and they don't have any difficulties," said the father.
On October 22 a commission accompanied by government officials arrived to meet with students and schoolchildren in the Syrdarya region. Residents assume that the commission members were the international monitors, because since September these international observers have been monitoring across the country and researching the situation with child labour and forced labour.
Despite efforts by officials in Tashkent to keep children under the age of 18 from participating in cotton harvesting, the many fatal incidents involving students and schoolchildren who were forced to pick cotton is reflecting the real situation. Particularly, on October21, 16-year old Yuldoshev Erkaboy died. He had been forced to go to pick cotton and stay in Galaba village, Urganch district of Khorezm region.
It's highly troubling that so many deaths have occurred this year at a time when the government claims it is no longer using young children and international monitors are coming on the scene. That suggests a condition of pressure and disintegration. I wish the international community had more access. It doesn't and hasn't really sufficiently tried to get it.