Rights activists protest in New York against forced labour in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields

On 1 October, when President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was addressing the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York, activists of the human rights movement the Cotton Campaign held a protest action outside the United Nations headquarters to end the state-sponsored forced and child labor in Turkmenistan's cotton fields.

The protested 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.

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's 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.

Despite the fact, that the protest action was held in front of the UN Headquarters, 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.

Let us recall that 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 labour 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 (Turkmen Cotton Pledge).

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

Kirill Boichenko emphasized: Our coalition Cotton Campaign is ready for a direct and constructive dialogue with the government of Turkmenistan but out attempts to establish a contact have not been successful so far.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan