Majlis Podcast: The Cotton Campaign In Central Asia

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The topic of this week's Majlis podcast is the cotton campaign in Central Asia, that time of year when more than 1 million people -- doctors, nurses, teachers, students, and others -- are conscripted and sent into the cotton fields of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and, especially, Uzbekistan.

Rights organizations have been complaining about forced labor in Central Asia's cotton fields for years, but has the criticism resulted in any changes? Why is cotton so important to Central Asia anyway? And is it just the money or are there other reasons governments in the region send people into the fields every year?

Muhammad Tahir, RFE/RL's media relations manager, moderated the discussion. Participating were Kirill Boychenko, coordinator of a coalition of NGOs called the Cotton Campaign; Ruslan Myatiev, editor of Alternative Turkmenistan News; and Steve Swerdlow, Central Asian researcher at Human Rights Watch. I also participated.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.