Monday, 1 March 2010

Sting eats babies: Uzbekistan and child slave labour

Sting and the Dictator's Daughter Gulnara Karimova

Just read a distressing report at Craig Murray's blog about Sting taking a million quid to perform for the Uzbekistan elite. The same Uzbekistan rulers who torture and boil their opponents and who our former ambassador bravely blew the whistle on only to find himself excommunicated and traduced by the British government.

The glamourpuss sitting next to the millionaire musician (above) may look the picture of sophistication but, according to Murray, Gulnara Karimova apparently makes hundreds of millions each year from forced child labour. Not that you'd know this from her rather clean Wikipedia entry. Try the father's Wiki page.

In legitimising this vile regime as a place of culture and civilisation, has Sting given aid and comfort to enemies of humanity? He refused to play apartheid South Africa, so why does he feel it is OK to help gloss Uzbekistan?

Craig Murray posts extracts from a report by the Environmental Justice Foundation, in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International, laying out exactly what Uzbek child slavery means:
* Children as young as 10 years old can be dispatched to the cotton fields for two months each year, missing out on their education and jeopardizing their future prospects.

* Uzbekistan is the world’s 3rd largest cotton exporter and earns around US$1 billion annually from the sale of its cotton to clothing factories primarily in Asia, which in turn export garments to the west; and to cotton traders, many of which are based in Europe.

* Reports in November 2009 estimated one million children working in the last harvest. Cotton picking is arduous labour, with each child ascribed a daily cotton quota of several kilos that they must fulfil.

* Children may be compelled to stay in barrack-like accommodation during the harvest. Living conditions are often squalid. In those places where food is provided to children, it is inadequate, often lacking in basic nutrition and children can often only access water from irrigation pipes, which carries health risk

* Children can be left in poor physical condition following the harvest; illnesses including hepatitis, injuries and even deaths are all reported. The harvest begins in the late summer, when temperatures in the fields remain high and can continue until the onset of the Uzbek winter. Children are not provided with any protective clothing whilst they work.

* Children receive little or no reimbursement for their labour, perhaps a few US cents per kilo of cotton picked. However, payments are deducted to cover their travel to the fields and the food they are provided with during the cotton picking season, which can leave them in debt.

The full report can be downloaded from here.

Even Wal-Mart, Tesco, Asda and C&A ensure that there is no Uzbekistan cotton in their products. If only Sting was similarly fastidious. O Sting, where is thy depth?

The redoubtable Marina Hyde got there first.

"Torture Old and New: Degrading Attempts to Legitimate New Forms of Torture" given by Justice Arthur Chaskalson.

Justice Chaskalson was part of Nelson Mandela's defence team and a leading figure of South Africa's Constitutional Court.He will explore the legitimisation of new forms of psychological torture, as well as the complicity of psychologists, doctors, lawyers and the security services in developing and implementing them. He will call for societies and governments to act to end torture in all its forms.
Date: Friday 21 May 2010, 7.00pm (refreshments 6.30pm)
Venue: The Institute of Psychoanalysis, 112a Shirland Road, off Elgin Avenue London, W9 2EQ (at junction with Elgin Avenue)
Nearest Tube: Maida Vale and Warwick Avenue
Tickets: £15 (concessions £12)
To book: Call 020 7563 5016. Email:


Gwei Mui said...

Could it be that the "popularity" and publicity of the plight of these child slaves is not as widespread as that of apartheid, that the bandwagon is not big enough? Surely not, it's just the cynic in me, isn't it?

splinteredsunrise said...

That's a very poor show from famous human rights activist Sting. I suppose the Uzbeks don't have the romantic appeal of Tibetans, or those Amazon rain forest guys. And apart from Craig Murray, not many people highlighting their plight.

How long before Bono turns up in Uzbekistan?

Madam Miaow said...

Actually, Splinty, if you google Sting and Uzbekistan it's surprising how many commentators do have this story, apart from the Indy, Mail and the excellent Marina Hyde.

I doubt even Bono would stoop this low, especially after all the BA-A-AD publicity this has earned. Mind, you, there was the tax avoidance in the Netherlands ...

Gui Mei, no, not cynical at all. I suspect these invisible, mute children and the other victims of the regime aren't as good at grabbing the headlines. Still, it's an ill wind. I think Sting has inadvertently gained them more publicity than any amount of straight forward shouting could have done.

Gregor said...

Pretty sordid stuff. Still, I’m not well up on modern pop-culture and I was wondering if any famous rock stars have actually endorsed any of the progressive leaders in Latin America? Or is the countryside alliance a greater priority these days?

I think there is a sense in which a lot of their concern was manufactured. These days they seem to avoid real controversy.

Madam Miaow said...

Good question, Gregor. I assume Billy Bragg but I don't know for sure. Anyone know of any others?

T-Moor said...

Well folks, it is easy for you to write these comments sitting in your cozy chairs. But, have you ever been to Uzbekistan yourselves? Do you know how people are earning their bread over there? NO. You wouldn't care if it wasn't for this news about Sting and this stupid Craig Murray. Well, let me tell you something, since I was born and live in Uzbekistan, our country is not that bad as described in Western Media. It has become a custom for westerners to think that it is really bad in Uzbekistan or in any former Soviet state, but it is not that bad. We have problems, we have unemployment, but this is not a country where people are tortured or killed as Craig Murray says. If we follow his way of thinking than USA is even more authocratic than Uzbekistan, how about Guantanamo base? So, before attacking Sting for the concert better think twice, or try to contact local people from Uzbekistan in order to find out what they think, do they really care...
Anyhow, your critical posts won't help people of Uzbekistan, if you really want to support people of Uzbekistan, set up charity fund or anything similar. But again, our people are not living in conditions compared to those of poor African countries.
Thank you for your attention and good luck!

Madam Miaow said...

T-Moor, your argument would wash if Sting had played to ordinary people in Uzbekistan and forged cultural contacts with them. But, no. He played to the elite with ticket prices 45 times that of the average monthly salary.

You are right that we probably don't know enough about your country. But what we do know is that the cotton production in Uzbekistan from which the ruling family and their associates make so much money, emptying the Aral sea in the process, is a scandal among many.

Sting presents himself as a great humanitarian and philosopher. He has behaved in the opposite manner and it is right that we call him out on it.

T-Moor said...

On the price I agree with you, but according to the press of Uzbekistan, this was a charity concert. Apart from this, big screens were set outside of the Alisher Navoi theathre so that everyone could enjoy the concert.

Now about the cotton issue, the Aral Sea has been destroyed many years before we gained our independence. We have to thank Soviet Russia for this stupid agriculture policy and nothing can be done at the moment to bring the Aral Sea back, which is sad, but true. But still, boycotting Uzbek cotton is a stupid thing, since Uzbek people are being affected by this. If you're boycotting our cotton because of child labour, then you should also boycott Nike sneakers, which are produced by Chinese or Taiwanese people, who are being underpaid. What I am trying to say is that the West should stop using the policy of double standards.

One more thing, as you already noticed my English is good, I also speak several other European languages, but if I want to go abroad, to the UK or USA, I won't get Visa. Why, because for the embassies of these countries our people worth nothing, we have to bring thousands of papers proving that we have enough financial means to go abroad, but still we are declined. You may wonder why am I saying this, the thing is the Craig Murray, who is writing so many things about Uzbekistan did nothing when he was an ambassador to get rid of this "racial" approach. So, if the West wants to support our people, it has to at least ease the process of obtaining Visa. Of course, our discussion here won't change anything, but I want you to understand how the things are running in Uzbekistan in reality.

And the last thing, if there was some unknown person in Sting's place I bet no one would even care about the country called Uzbekistan.

Madam Miaow said...

I agree with you about double standards. In criticising the Uzbekistan regime I am not letting the US off the hook for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib or my own country for helping them create the madness in the middle-East. And of course there is a perennial debate about whether to boycott Nike for the reasons you give. Personally, I don't buy Nike and several other brands including Nestlé.

But this is a family dictatorship led by someone who rose through the ranks of the Soviet system. So he is doubly connected with the destruction of the Aral sea. If we don't boycott the cotton, how do we apply international pressure to stop money disappearing into the coffers of your rulers instead of going to help the people? And many of us do not want to wear clothes produced under the conditions revealed by Anti-Slavery International and others.

Re visas, I thought I read somewhere that Gulnara runs this department.

T-Moor said...

I don't think that it's true about Visas being under her control.
Anyways, if you're really interested in Uzbekistan here is a good documentary, which I recommend you to see: (you have to register to see the links) (you have to register to see the links)