Uzbekistan: Pop star banned 'over cotton harvest snub'

Jasur Umarov

An Uzbek pop star has been stripped of his licence to perform - and some reckon it's because he refused to help the cotton harvest.

The official Uzbeknavo performing rights association says Jasur Umarov has "regularly breached the requirements of the licence", without going into detail. But the Central Asian News site in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan says the singer had declined to perform for cottonpickers on health grounds. An Uzbeknavo source was quoted by Radio Liberty as saying that this was dismissed as shirking. Uzbeknavo's website is promoting singers who've entertained harvesters, and Radio Liberty says some even received cash incentives.

Cotton is one of the country's main exports, and soldiers, students and even traffic offenders are reportedly forced to help bring in the harvest, as international pressure forces the country to reduce its reliance on child labour. Ferghana news agency says losing his licence means Jasur can't perform, tour or collect royalties, and will be reduced to the status of a cash-in-hand wedding singer. This is the second time he's had his licence suspended this year. Reports suggest Uzbeknavo has accused him of performing songs "alien to the national values, morals and outlook" of the conservative, Muslim country.

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