Nike Called Out for Doing Business with Slave Cotton Company
While Competitors Take Action, Nike Shelters Supplier with Deep Ties to Brutal Uzbek Regime
Uzbek human rights activists, political leaders, and prominent dissidents released an open letter today calling on Nike (NYSE: NKE) to stop doing business with Daewoo International, the largest processor of forced labor cotton in Uzbekistan. The 141 signatories, many of whom have been harassed, threatened, tortured or imprisoned by the current Uzbek regime for speaking out against human rights abuses, are asking Nike to follow the lead of several major apparel companies that have taken action to remove Daewoo International from their supply chains.
The letter, unveiled at OregonLive.com and the International Labor Rights Forum’s website, describes the recent death of 18-year-old Navruz Muyzinov, who was beaten by police officers in Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan when he left his assigned cotton field before meeting his cotton picking quota. According to a letter to Radio Free Europe from an anonymous source, who said he witnessed the episode, the teenager went to pick cotton that day instead of his mother. Feeling sick, he left the fields early. On the road he was stopped by two police officers, who quarreled with Navruz and beat him. The teenager was later taken to a hospital, where he died that evening.
For decades, the government of Uzbekistan, under the dictator Islam Karimov, has forced millions of children, teachers, public servants and private sector employees to pick cotton under appalling conditions. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, denied public benefits or worse. The government combines these penalties with threats, detains and tortures activists seeking to monitor the situation and continues to refuse the International Labor Organization’s efforts to monitor the cotton harvest.
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