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Malokhat needs you

From Freedom United

Journalist and human rights activist, Malokhat Eshonkulova was detained at Tashkent airport on her way to a labor rights seminar in Kyrgyzstan in December.

Malokhat was invited to present her work monitoring forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

Airport special services removed Malokhat from her flight and detained her in a security room until her flight departed.

She was released shortly after and informed that she cannot leave the country until her legal fines are paid in full, despite efforts to pay and her belongings – including electric heaters, her computer and cell phone – being previously confiscated to redeem fines.

We believe this persecution by the Uzbek government comes as a retaliation for her monitoring and reporting on forced labor in the country’s cotton harvest.

She is one of few activists that work openly in the repressive environment of Uzbekistan.

Will you join us in calling on Uzbekistan to drop these bogus charges against Malokhat?

We must do something now. On November 12, Uzbek police raided the home of journalist and human rights advocate Malokhat Eshonkulova, and confiscated some of her belongings, including electric heaters, in a nearly 11-hour search for her computer and cell phone. Malokhat is being targeted for her work monitoring forced and child labor in Uzbekistan’s government-run cotton harvest.[1]

Help protect Malokhat now and call on Uzbekistan to stop legal proceedings against her.

Despite the Uzbek President and Prime Minister’s recent public statements on forced labor, the Uzbek authorities have imposed $1400 in fines on Malokhat for raising complaints that, if not paid, could result in all her belongings being confiscated and sold.
In an attempt to clamp down on dissent, the authorities are using an antiquated registry permit system from Soviet times to threaten Malokhat with internal deportation from the capital region of Tashkent, where she lives with her family, to a remote region of the country.

Malokhat’s work and voice to illuminate human rights violations in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry must not be silenced. And we must speak up for her now!

Earlier this year Malokhat was repeatedly arrested and harassed by Uzbek authorities, along with her fellow activist Elena Urlaeva, for their attempt to document forced labor and human rights abuses throughout the 2016 and 2017 cotton harvests. They were accused of espionage, insulted, exposed to repeated searches – even forced to strip naked.[2]

Elena was subsequently detained and forced to undergo unnecessary psychiatric treatment for 23 days. In March 2017, we launched a campaign in partnership with Cotton Campaign to bring attention to Elena’s plight, helping to secure her release.[3]

We want the power of international solidarity to help Malokhat in the same way! Will you stand up for Malokhat so that she can continue her important work without fear of retaliation?

Uzbekistan is the fifth largest cotton producer in the world and each year forces more than one million of its citizens to grow and harvest cotton to meet national quotas. Citizens are mobilized in mass and forced to work under the threat of fines, job loss, school expulsion, criminal charges and loss of social security benefits.[4]

Call on Uzbekistan now to protect Malokhat!

In solidarity,

Joanna, Alex, Abby, Miriam, Kirill and everyone at Freedom United and the Cotton Campaign

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