Our t-shirts are made of cotton ethically produced in the United States. The cotton used by our manufacturers is grown in the United States, including even for our standard t-shirts and imported products. US cotton farmers are required to adhere to strict US labor laws and regulations. These regulations are most likely some of the most stringent in the cotton growing industry globally. They provide workers with ethical workplaces and because cotton is regulated as a food crop, workplace health and safety conditions mirror those of the vast majority of the foods we find on our tables.
Slavery-like practices are used in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields
Every year since 1989, the Government of Uzbekistan, one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, forces over 1 million of Uzbek citizens to leave their regular jobs and go to the fields to pick cotton for weeks in arduous and hazardous conditions. Many people have died almost every year in fields from extreme heat and accidents, including children who are also forced to work. According to several human rights organizations, slavery-like practices are used in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.
Human rights organizations, such as the IHF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others, define Uzbekistan as “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights” and express profound concern about “wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights”.
According to the human rights violations reports, the most widespread violations are torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms: of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly. It has also been reported that forced sterilization of rural Uzbek women has been practiced by the government. The reports maintain that the violations are most often committed against independent journalists, members of religious organizations, human rights activists and political activists, including members of the banned opposition parties.
Human rights campaigners have been threatened, beaten and detained while attempting to monitor conditions during the harvest. There is currently thousands of political prisoners in Uzbekistan and Human Rights Watch reported that Uzbek prison authorities routinely beat prisoners and use electric shocks, asphyxiation and sexual humiliation to extract information and confessions. Muslim prisoners have even been tortured for praying. According to a forensic report commissioned by the British embassy, some prisoners were boiled to death.
Uzbekistan also maintains the world’s second-highest rate of modern slavery, around 4% of the country’s population working as modern slaves. The only country with an higher slavery rate is North Korea. Recent reports on violations on human rights in Uzbekistan indicate that violations are still going on without any improvement.
The 2005 civil unrest in Uzbekistan, which resulted in over 1500 people being killed by the military. These events are viewed by many as a landmark event in the history of human rights abuse in Uzbekistan. A concern has been expressed and a request for an independent investigation of the events has been made by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the OSCE and other human rights NGOs.
Forced labor repeats every year during harvest. Provincial government offices order schoolteachers to close schools and enforce quotas in the cotton fields. The local authorities send government and private business employees in order to meet cotton production quotas. The Uzbek government combines these orders with threats, detains and tortures Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation, and refuses to address the problem of forced labor.
The forced labor system orchestrated by the government of Uzbekistan violates human rights, holds Uzbek citizens as modern slaves, and condemns future generations to a cycle of poverty. Only the high officials of the corrupt regime in place for more than 30 years, profits from the forced labor and the massive exports of cotton. We join Uzbek citizens in supporting the Call to Boycott Uzbek Textile organized by the victims of governmental persecution.