Field report: Gaspar is finally free


To secure Gaspar Matalaev’s freedom following his imprisonment on spurious charges after the publication of his work to expose forced labor in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields.


Gaspar Matalaev is prominent human rights activist in Turkmenistan who was reporting on the state-sanctioned system of forced labor in the country during the 2016 cotton harvest. On October 4, 2016, Gaspar was arrested two days after the publication of his work reporting on conditions of forced labor and child labor in Turkmenistan’s 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.

Gaspar was reportedly tortured by electric current whilst in custody in order to force him to confess to false charges of fraud and bribery, following which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Despite promises from the Turkmen government to release Gaspar, he served his full term in detention. We joined our partner, the Cotton Campaign, in drawing international attention to Gaspar’s case and campaign for Gaspar’s release.

Together we raised his case with the President of Turkmenistan; wrote to Turkmen ambassadors in Germany, France, Belgium, UK and USA ahead of the 2017 Ashgabat Asian Games; handed in the petition and demonstrated outside Turkmenistan’s Embassy in Washington D.C. in May of this year as well as highlighting his plight in international forums.

However, the authorities ignored all calls to release Gaspar.


In March 2017 we launched a campaign in partnership with the Cotton Campaign to harness the international community’s voice calling to free Gaspar.


Whilst we are relieved at Gaspar’s release, we are not celebrating. Gaspar should have never spent three years behind bars on spurious charges for working to expose forced labor in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields. We are grateful to everybody who joined the campaign to free Gaspar – upon his release, one of Gaspar’s first messages was to thank everybody who has supported him over the past few years.

We will continue to campaign for activists’ freedom to continue their crucial work to expose exploitation and forced labor, free from the threat of harassment and detention.

Our partner in this campaign:

Cotton Campaign Logo

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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john Bestevaar
4 years ago

It is an outrage against human rights that sovereign governments are legally able to enslave their citizens and nobody will do anything to stop it.