Activists protest in New York against forced labor in Turkmenistan cotton fields

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — On October 1, when Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was addressing the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, activists of the Cotton Campaign human rights movement held a rally outside the United Nations headquarters protesting the state-sponsored forced and child labor in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields, independent foreign-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported.

The rally participants also demanded an immediate release of Gaspar Matalaev, a reporter with the Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) who had monitored and reported on the systematic human rights violations during the cotton harvesting campaign in Turkmenistan.

Kirill Boichenko, one of the organizers of the protest action and coordinators of the Cotton Campaign coalition told Chronicles of Turkmenistan that the event brought together 20 activists, including representatives of international human rights organizations and a few Turkmenistan nationals.

“We split into two groups: one was holding posters in front of the UN building whereas the other was distributing leaflets to delegates of the UN General Assembly on the opposite side of the street,” Boichenko said.

The protesters failed to see the President of Turkmenistan. However, according to the rights activist, the action was primarily committed to drawing the attention of the UN General Assembly participants and the companies importing Turkmen cotton.

Quite a few of the largest world brands — including IKEA, H&M, Wrangler, Lee, Zara and others — had previously refused to procure cotton and textile goods from Turkmenistan as child and forced labor is used during its harvesting.

Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Designworks, Gap Inc., H&M, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Rowlinson Knitwear, Royal Bermuda, Sears Holdings, Varner Retail and VF Corporation also pledged not to use Turkmenistan-produced cotton.

In May 2018 the US authorities imposed a ban on the importation of all Turkmenistan cotton, or products produced with Turkmen cotton.

Sergey Kwan

TCA