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Uzbekistan: Cotton Industry Targeted By Child-Labor Activists
Author: Gulnoza Saidazimova, Radio Free Europe, Published on: 19 January 2008
In an open letter on January 17, some 100 Uzbek dissidents and activists abroad and 40 in the country say the forced use of child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry has become a "deliberate state policy"…[T]he letter…says that in recent years forced child labor has spread on a "mass scale," and that working conditions for thousands of minors who toil in Uzbek fields have worsened… Following the expose [by the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ programme], several international companies said they would stop buying Uzbek cotton…H&M, Finland's Marimekko, and Estonia's Krenholm [part of Boras Wäfveri] were the first. This week, they were joined by…Tesco…and by Marks and Spencer…The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), a U.S.-based group that promotes the world cotton trade, called the allegations by Uzbek activists "exaggerated" and "absurd."…[One of the letter's signatories, Nadejda Atayeva, head of Association on Human Rights in Central Asia] said this week's statement was partly in response to the ICAC's reaction to the original call for a boycott.