Bakhodir Pardaev, born in 1998, a 7th grade school child, School No. 24, Chirakchi district, Kashkadarya province, was run over by a car while returning together with other schoolchildren from cotton fields. Along with other schoolmates, Bakhodir was sent in September 2011 to pick cotton in Usanov Eshdavlat’s farm, MTP “Sokhibkor”, located several kilometres away from the school.
On 26 September 2011, after long and fruitless efforts, he was transferred to the province hospital in Karshi city. Up to this day Bakhodir Pardaev is held in ward No.9 of the neurosurgery department and remains in coma.
It is a usual and frequent practice in Uzbekistan to mobilize children for work in cotton fields during the Autumn season. Sometimes they are compelled to walk to the fields and back home along the highways taking risk of being hit by the passing vehicles. This accident is not an isolated one in a series of similar traffic accidents associated to the cotton harvest campaign and coercive mobilization of school children every year.
Bakhodir was hit by y "Matiz" with plate numbers 18 P4564 at the 12th kilometer of the Hirakchi-Karshi highway. In the wake of the accident neither the driver Bakhtiyor Yakhshiboev not the passenger Jalol Yakhshiboev, the driver's brother and reporter at the Kashkadarya province state TV bothered to visit the boy in hospital, and the journalist did not report on the accident in the local media.
The injured boy was admitted to the reanimation department of the district hospital in the state of coma. He was diagnosed with multiple heavy injuries: a rupture of the spinal cord, a fracture of the right side of the jaw, a broken arm and leg and injury to the right side of the torso.
Bakhodir’s mother – Makhbuba Ergasheva – is shedding bitter tears and nobody can comfort her. Doctors informed has immediately informed the internal affairs department of the accident. In spite of that, the investigation has not been launched with the prosecutor’s office having declined the request of the family to institute criminal proceedings. According to the local sources, the journalist of the province TV Jalol Yakhshiboev, who was in the car, enjoys the protection of the province khokim Nuriddin Zainiev. Apparently, the authorities decided to hush up the matter by any possible means. We know for certain that pressure is being exerted on the family of the injured child and the national Security Service officers guard the hospital to prevent any leak of information about the condition of Bakhodyr. They are prohibiting the heartbroken parents to contact human rights defenders and journalists.
The Justice will define the degree of liability for this accident. But in reality the judicial system in Uzbekistan lacks autonomy and follows instructions of the executive power. Therefore, it is futile to count on justice in this country. The following officials should be held liable for giving orders on forced mobilization of children to pick cotton:
- Hokim (Head of administration) of the Kashkadarya Province Nuriddin Zainiev.
- Hokim of the Chirakchi District Kamol Ravshanov.
- Head of the public education department of Chirakchi hokimiyat (district administration) Azamat Bakhromov.
However, it was most likely not their personal initiative to give instructions to schools on the mobilization of children. They are only the executive agents of the state policy on exploitation of children, the policy approved by Islam Karimov and actively executed by Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev who is personally in charge for the cotton production.
Another official directly responsible for the practice of forced child labour and all related harm done to the children is Temir Shirinov, Minister of Public Education. Schoolchildren are taken away from studies for more than 2 months every cotton harvest and the Minister has done nothing to prevent this violation of law.
Each harvest, the whole country, under the leadership of these persons, is being turned into a single, Stalin-type labour camp, where millions of ordinary citizens and their children are being turned into slaves of the ruling regime.
Government has never been accountable to the people for spending of hundreds of millions of US dollar cotton export revenues. Profits from cotton exports have been so far spent on the satisfaction of the personal ambitions of the upper echelons of power: construction of luxury palaces, entertainment parties and window dressing with the invitation of expensive celebrities. And, finally, the cotton revenues are spent being to strengthen the repressive government machinery, which is an indispensable part of the system of exploitation of child labour by the state.
Not a single soum (Uzbek currency) of these profits is allocated to schools, which procure child labour force for the cotton fields. Authorities would not lift a finger to designate some money for quality treatment of Bakhodir Pardaev whose injuries are life threatening.
The leadership of Uzbekistan does not take the responsibility for numerous of similar accidents and damaging consequences of cotton production. Children are being truly victims of this cruel state order...
We call upon representatives of the European Union and the Members of the European Parliament to take into account this and similar cases when finalising its decision on the Textile protocol which is part of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. If this protocol is endorsed, textile and cotton from Uzbekistan will obtain tax and tariff preferences in Europe. That would encourage the Uzbek ruling regime to continue its policy of exploiting school children. None of these benefits would trickle down to the schools and children in Uzbekistan.