Call on the Turkmen Government to free Gaspar Matalaev

Free Gaspar Matalaev

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Freedom United


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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:

  • September 6, 2019: Today Gaspar Matalaev is finally freed having served his full sentence. Gaspar’s first message upon his release from prison was a big thank you to everyone who has supported him over the past 3 years. You can help support Gaspar’s recovery here.

  • 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!

  • Apr 04, 2017: Campaign Launches

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maureen eyles
maureen eyles
5 years ago

So sorry that your humanity is met by inhumanity

Lotte Sonne
Lotte Sonne
5 years ago

Hang on, Gaspar! You are in many people’s thoughts. We hope you’ll be free soon.

5 years ago

I call to immediately release Mr. Gaspar Matalaev!

Carol Chapman
5 years ago

Free Gaspar to be punished for speaking the truth and put in prison and tortured for speaking out against forced child labour in Turkmenistan cotton fields is a disgrace he sdould be set free

Susan Woods
Susan Woods
5 years ago

You are a very brave man; fighting for such a righteous cause. I wish you all the strength you need to survive your situation and hope you will regain your freedom very soon.

This Campaign made an impact with 101,564 supporters!

Please read our field report with summary and outcome


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