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. Gaspar’s family was promised time and again that he’d be released, but this never happened.
Gaspar is a prominent human rights activist in Turkmenistan, where he has been monitoring the state-orchestrated forced labor system in the country’s cotton fields. His work has helped draw attention to the Turkmen Government’s annual mobilization of tens of thousands of citizens, including children, 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. It is clear Gaspar’s arrest was politically motivated.
It is now up to the international community to speak out and demand action on behalf of courageous monitors like Gaspar who put themselves at risk to help others.
Zoe, Joanna, Vittorio and the Freedom United Team