Campaign Update:

May 22, 2019: Today our partners at ILRF and the Cotton Campaign handed in over 100,000 names to the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington DC! Take a look at photos from the event here. We won’t stop fighting for Gaspar’s release – add your name to strengthen our call.

Free Gaspar Matalaev

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On October 4, 2016, human rights activist Gaspar Matalaev was arrested in Turkmenistan, Central Asia. He has reportedly been subjected to torture by electric current to force him to confess to false charges of minor fraud. Repeated promises of his release have been broken.1

Gaspar is a prominent human rights activist in the country, where he has been monitoring the state-orchestrated forced labor system in the Turkmenistan cotton fields. His work has helped draw attention to the Turkmen Government’s annual mobilization of tens of thousands of citizens forced to pick cotton under threat of punishment.

Gaspar’s arrest came two days after he published a report on the extensive use of forced labor and child labor in the 2016 cotton harvest and one day after the Minister of National Security was severely reprimanded by the Turkmen President at a State Security Council meeting for not properly repressing activism in the country.2 It is clear Gaspar’s arrest was politically motivated.

This is not the first time the Turkmenistan Government has prosecuted human rights activists on politically motivated charges. This year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the Turkmen Government to end the harassment, torture and detention of those “seeking to document forced labour in the cotton harvest such as Gaspar Matalaev”.3 It is now up to the international community to speak out and demand action on behalf of the courageous monitors like Gaspar who put themselves at risk to help others.

Please sign our petition to demand the Turkmen Government immediately release Gaspar and allow him to continue his work in safety.

The petition number includes 11,255 signatures collected by our partner, International Labor Rights Forum.


Photo courtesy of Alternative Turkmenistan News:

  • May 22, 2019: Today our partners at ILRF and the Cotton Campaign handed in over 100,000 names to the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Washington DC! Take a look at photos from the event here. We won’t stop fighting for Gaspar’s release – add your name to strengthen our call.

  • May 3, 2019: Thanks to all who joined our call on World Press Freedom Day demanding Gaspar’s immediate release. Read our letter to the President of Turkmenistan here and add your name to strengthen the call for Gaspar’s freedom.

  • December 2018: Thousands of forcibly mobilised Turkmen citizens reach the end of the year’s cotton harvest, as Gaspar remains incarcerated, 26 months into a three-year sentence on trumped-up charges for reporting on forced labor in the cotton industry.

  • October 2018: Top apparel brands have signed a pledge to not source cotton from Turkmenistan until forced labor in the country’s cotton industry, which Gaspar reported on, has been eliminated.

    We were also outside the UN calling for Gaspar’s release this month – click here to read our surprising impact!

  • September 2018: Turkmenistan forces state employees from sectors including schools, hospitals and banks, to pick cotton during this harvest.

  • May 2018: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency has formally banned the importation of Turkmen cotton into the U.S. following the submission of a petition by our partner, the Cotton Campaign. This is a significant step forward and we hope that international pressure will expedite Gaspar’s release. To read the full press release from the Cotton Campaign, click here.

  • January 2018: Gaspar’s case has been highlighted most recently in Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2018 World Report, and had also been mentioned by the UN Human Rights Committee in its concluding observations on its report of Turkmenistan in April 2017. In May 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also expressed its concern over Gaspar’s detention. You can read the HRW 2018 report here, the UN Human Rights Committee report here, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s full letter here.

  • September 2017: With the international spotlight on Turkmenistan ahead of the 2017 Ashgabat Asian Games, we wrote to Turkmen ambassadors in Germany, France, Belgium, UK and USA calling for their support in releasing Gaspar. Read our full letter here, written in collaboration with our partners in the Cotton Campaign.

  • 27 June 2017: The publication of the annual Trafficking in Person (TIP) report by the US State Department highlighted the mistreatment of Gaspar by the Turkmen authorities. The TIP report is an influential assessment of governments based on their efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking, and its inclusion of Gaspar’s case is an important step in drawing the attention of the international community to the injustice of his case. Click here to read more.

  • 10 May: In collaboration with our partners, the Cotton Campaign, we sent a letter to the Turkmen President requesting Gaspar’s immediate release from detention. Click here to read the letter.

Apr 04, 2017 Campaign Launches

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lisa peltierGeorgieAlmut JürriesStacey AlmondChristopher Fletcher Recent comment authors
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lisa peltier
lisa peltier

You are not forgotten. We care very much!


My prayers are with you

Almut Jürries
Almut Jürries

With our minds and hearts we are near you and want to give you hope and trust!

Stacey Almond
Stacey Almond

He is a very brave man to speak out. I commend him 100%. The government of this country are blagards to try and discredit him and punish him in horrible ways. shame on this country.

Christopher Fletcher

Just donated $AUD50 NOT $US50. Please correct at your end amount subscribed

Call on the Turkmen Government to free Gaspar Matalaev

101,428 actions of 150,000 goal

To President Berdymuhamedov,

I call on you to immediately release Mr. Gaspar Matalaev from detention and allow him to continue his work as an independent monitor on the use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest in Turkmenistan.

Mr. Matalaev was detained by Turkmenistan police on October 4, 2016 and reportedly subjected to torture by electric current to force a confession to charges of ‘fraud’. Though the charges against him are minor, the Turkmen authorities have refused to release Mr. Matalaev, despite allowing others charged with the same offense to go free.

We call on you to release Mr. Matalaev as a matter of urgency and to work with civil society actors like him to end forced labor in your cotton industry.

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