When cotton-picking season comes around in Uzbekistan, lists of names start to be compiled by local officials up and down the country.
On them are the names of the teachers, civil servants and health workers that make the backbone of a press-ganged army of harvesters that support this economically important industry.
For Tursuna, a 50-year-old teacher in the agriculturally rich Ferghana region, it is a time of dread.
“I have high blood pressure and a weak heart — I should not be picking cotton. But the headmaster says: ‘Either quit or find somebody who can pick the cotton in your place,’” Tursuna told EurasiaNet.org. Disgruntled individuals like Tursuna are willing to provide their full names out of frustration, but surnames are being withheld from publication out of concern over possible reprisals.
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