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AMSTERDAM – A new report says the use of forced labour was rife in the 2020 cotton harvest in Turkmenistan. In four of the five regions of Turkmenistan – Ahal, Dashoguz, Lebap, and Mary – researchers found forced labour by public sector employees, conscripts, and students in higher education, colleges and vocational schools. If they refused, public employees risked dismissal, while students might get disciplinary penalties or expulsion from their institution, claims the report.

In May 2018, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) banned the import of any products containing cotton from Turkmenistan due to the country’s systematic use of state-sponsored forced labor during the annual cotton harvest. In 2019, Adidas, H&M, and Gap were among 12 brands and retailers to sign the Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) Turkmen Cotton Pledge, which commits companies to not source cotton from Turkmenistan until forced labour in its cotton sector has been eliminated. Other signatories include Columbia Sportswear Company, Designworks Clothing Company, M&S, Nike and VF Corporation.

However, with over 300 million dollars’ worth of cotton and textile exported to Turkey every year, Turkmenistan uses Turkey as the main gateway for its cotton products to global supply chains. Brands have been advised in the past to engage with their Turkish suppliers about the use of Turkmenistan cotton.

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