Drugged, beaten and detained by police — this was the fate of activist Elena Urlaeva who dared to document state-sponsored forced labour in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan this May.1
In Uzbekistan, the whole country suffers at the time of the cotton harvest. The government operates the world’s largest state-run system of forced labour that sees teachers and doctors removed from their roles to work in the fields for up to two months each year and pensioners forced to pick cotton or else submit 50% of their pension.2 Anyone who tries to speak out, like Elena, is brutally repressed.
What’s worse is that international institutions like the World Bank are helping Uzbekistan keep its dirty secret.3 Right now they are funding projects in Uzbekistan that are documented to be using forced labour.4
The good news is that the World Bank signed a contract agreeing to suspend loans if evidence of forced labour was uncovered.5 Now we need your help to hold them to this promise.
Once again this year, announcements calling “everyone to the cotton fields” were heard echoing around the countryside of Uzbekistan.6
Walk Free are asking the World Bank to cancel loans to Uzbekitan through a petition here. I am not signing it myself because I am against the use of economic sanctions.
3 The World Bank is an international institution that provides loans for developing countries