Free Gaspar Matalaev -

Free Gaspar Matalaev


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.


Photo courtesy of Alternative Turkmenistan News:

Campaign updates

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.

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881 Comments on "Free Gaspar Matalaev"

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Vivienne Callender

Ppoor Gaspar! What sort of government rules Turkmenistan? Not one where justice counts, it seems. How primitive!

Tomris Ulaş

Respect the human rights and free Gaspar

Jennie Wilson

This is just so frustrating when everyone knows Gaspar is innocent of any crime. He’s such a brave man and has my undying respect for putting himself at risk to stand up for others.


free this innocent soul

Sandra Dunoon

Another whistleblower punished. He should be lauded for risking his own safety for standing up for the rights of others. Free Gaspar!


Call on the Turkmen Government to free Gaspar Matalaev

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To President Berdimuhamedow,

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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Cotton Campaign

The Cotton Campaign is a coalition of human rights organizations, trade unions, socially responsible investors and business associations united to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Since 2007, the Cotton Campaign has advocated with governments, companies and investors to use their leverage to end this continuous and systematic human rights violation. Its advocacy has contributed to key steps towards securing fundamental labor rights for Uzbek and Turkmen citizens.

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