Our first 2019 Labor Rights Defender is…

2019 Labor Rights DefendersGaspar Matalaev & Alternative Turkmenistan News

Each spring, ILRF takes a moment to honor a group of Labor Rights Defenders, whose innovation and visionary leadership in the fight for safe and just working conditions has truly made a difference. This year’s honoree, Gaspar Matalaev, has taken great personal risks in his work to expose state-run forced and child labor in one of the most repressive countries in the world today: Turkmenistan.

This year, ILRF is honored to present a 2019 Labor Rights Defender Award to Gaspar Matalaev and Alternative Turkmenistan News.

Gaspar was arrested October 4, 2016, sentenced to three years in a labor camp, and remains imprisoned today. He has been tortured, held incommunicado, and denied proper legal counsel – all at the hands of one of the world’s most repressive countries. 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, teachers, and doctors, forced to manually pick cotton under threat of charges like insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and even ‘contempt of the homeland’. Gaspar’s arrest came two days after he published a report on the extensive use of forced and child labor in the 2016 cotton harvest. It is clear Gaspar’s arrest was politically motivated.

Alternative Turkmenistan News was founded in 2010 as an independent news and human rights organization, aiming to improve the living and working conditions of Turkmenistan’s citizens. Through a network of monitors, ATN provides independent reporting on one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes.


ATN, and activists like Gaspar, are critical in the fight to hold anti-democratic governments accountable, and we are honored to present them with a Labor Rights Defender Award. You can support Gaspar ahead of the ceremony, held this May 22 in Washington D.C., by signing our petition urging the Turkmen government to free Gaspar.


In solidarity,


Judy Gearhart
Executive Director

Please consider joining ILRF as a monthly donor to help sustain our ability to stand with labor rights defenders around the world.


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