Friday 16 December 2011


A few weeks ago I signed a petition requesting, or possibly even demanding, that the parliament of the European Union reject trade preferences for Uzbekistan and that they should take tougher action to stop child slavery in the country.

Craig Murray, ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, has previously reported that over one million children are used as slave labour during cotton harvesting in the country. They receive little or nothing for their work, and because they are charged for their transport to and from the cotton fields many are left in debt.

I'm not sure how the petition hoped that the second part of that demand would be fulfilled but the first half seemed simple enough. I don't think that the EU should be buying cotton which has been picked by kids of 10 to be used within its borders.

Many large supermarkets have already refused to buy cotton products which use material made from Uzbek cotton, and finally on Thursday the parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject a textile trade deal between the union and Uzbekistan citing child slavery as its reason.

I hope that a market the size of the EU (Europe buys 1/3 of the Uzbekistan's cotton/cotton products) refusing to do business with the country will force its leaders to look again at its production methods, and the people it uses as slaves.


  1. I totally agree with you Tris.

    I remember when Struan Stephenson MEP was in Stirling Uni, making a speech on this and environmental issues ... and he said the EU had a big role to play.

    He said, and I agree, the EU has to be more discriminating with who they do business with.

    AFTERALL, if the EU represents the greatest consumer market on earth current ... we should be more selective with who we do business with.

    And slave labour, children, adult or whatever, isn't any 'strategic partner' we ought to 'do business with' or let sell in OUR common market!

  2. No Dean, certainly not.

    I thought it was a scandal that when they were warned of the things that the dictator was up to, by their own ambassador, the British government took the brave step of...sacking the ambassador.

    And Willie Hague, who supported the ambassador at the time, decided not to bother supporting him any more when he got into power.

    You can't trust any of them when the President of the USA wants to keep the torturing, murdering Islam Karimov sweet.

    I suspect that if the war in Afghanistan comes to an end the wee toe rag will be ditched pretty sharpish.

  3. Child labour is widespread around the world which shows how politicians put the economy before people whilst crawling to the markets. Sadly nothing will change in the world until the middle classes start to feel the pinch that is being forced on the poorer in society.

  4. It is helpful that we have rejected the cotton coming from there though CH...

    And as they are not really paid for doing it there is not the usual argument that these children might starve if it were not for the meagre income that their labours bring to their households...

  5. The tattie holidays in Scotland were timed so that children could be drafted into the fields and help get the crop in. I'd have preferred to pick cotton. I couldn't wait to get out of school and into the countryside. Although we did get some good pocket money which doesn't seem to be the situation in Uzbekhistan. I read about folk getting boiled alive in Uzbekhistan. It didn't stop Sting doing a concert there or Karimov's daughter doing a fashion show in the US . Or the US selling them weapons. And we have an active Embassy there.

  6. I have a pal who with his 2 brothers and 1 sister were sent to the tatties because the family was short of money, Monty. But yes, they got paid. They went to the berries too.

    Cotton would be better for a part of the time, but the season (according to Craig who has lived there) starts in the burning heat of summer, and can extend into the freezing cold of the beginning of winter. October in Scotland can be bleak (as can any time) but I'm not too sure that Uzbekistan would be better.

    Yes, we have a good relationship with them because they let us (or really the US) use their air bases I think.

    And there's a chance that that woman is coming to London as their ambassador. She can do whatever she wants of course as she's daddy's little girly.

    When Sting sang there he went down in my estimation.

  7. I know this is going to sound as if I am against this argument but I am not. However, I remember the time when we, as kids, used to go berry picking for rubbish wages but we saw it as a day out and managed to earn a little pocket money [actually, more than I used to get off my father for the week] and we would steal enough berries so that our mothers could keep us in jam for a few weeks.
    If this is the same case with the Uzbek children then there is nothing to worry about. If they are actually being used as the full definition of slaves then I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  8. Gedguy:

    I think they have to go for the two months of the harvest. Most are not paid at all. Some are paid a tiny amount but have the money taken back to pay for travel.

    It's not a day out at the berries when you have a bit of a laugh, pick some berries, while the grown ups are doing some serious nabbling. It's serious work for busloads of children. Sent from school, missing education.

    It's slave labour all day long in the burning sun, and sometimes biting wind for wee kiddies. It should have been condemned years ago by the UK government but as usual they were in hawk to the dictator.

    The big stores, even the hated Tesco, have stopped buying anything that has Uzbek cotton in it, but the UK government did nothing.

    Pile of ****

  9. Tris,

    If that is the case then I would back your blog post 100%.
    Mind you they can kill two birds from one stone here if the Syr Darya was allowed to flow back into the now [nearly] dead Aral sea, but I couldn't see the Uzbeks allowing that to happen and give up one of the few resources that they have.

  10. I doubt that will happen too, Gedguy.