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March 2007
The Cost of Uzbek White Gold
Featured Photographer: Thomas Grabka


German photojournalist Thomas Grabka has been photographing the daily lives of people around the world since 1992. He has worked extensively in Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Recent projects include documenting the poppy crops and the lives of women and children in Afghanistan, and daily life in war-torn Iraq—post 9/11. Grabka’s photographs have been widely published, including in Germany’s major news magazines, Der Speigel and Stern, as well as internationally in publications such as Time.

In 2004, Grabka traveled to Uzbekistan documenting the use of children for the cotton harvest. The following is a selection from an online slideshow entitled The Cost of Uzbek White Gold presented by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Photographs by Thomas Grabka and text by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting are reprinted with kind permission.

To view the full slideshow, visit For more images of Grabka’s work, see

Cotton Harvest, Uzbekistan, September 24 - October 10, 2004
Gathering cotton in the autumn has been considered the most important part of life for an Uzbek citizen since Soviet times. But the hefty dollar revenues reaped by the government from its monopoly export and processing business are made on the backs of children who provide cheap labor.
Not surprisingly, many children end the cotton campaign in poor health and unable to make up the weeks they’ve missed at school. Some suffer from colds, and there were reports this season of two children falling sick with appendicitis. Tragically, some never return.
Housing for the young laborers is often primitive. Many stay in farm storehouses, without glass in the windows or doors to keep out the cold. Some are housed in school classrooms, crammed into a single, unheated room with up to 35 others.


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