Kyrgyzstan: BWI stands with unions amidst state repression

Two years since trade unions in Kyrgyzstan successfully fought the adoption of a law “on trade unions," which would have significantly restricted trade union rights in the country, they now face unprecedented pressure and interference from their government. From September to October 2023, the Kyrgyz parliament reportedly launched "financial audits" targeting trade unions associated with the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan (FTUK), and demanding financial records spanning the past decade. Subsequently, on November 28 and December 6, 2023, the State Committee for National Security apprehended numerous trade union leaders, accusing them of various offences, including "corruption," "creating threats to the interests of society and the state," and "causing serious harm.”


Some of the arrested trade union leaders are: 

1. Kanatbek Osmonov, Chairman of the Republican Committee of the Forestry Workers Trade Union

2. Asylbek Toktogulov, Chair of the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers

3. Chinara Tokombaeva, Deputy Chair of the Trade Union of Mechanical Builders

4. Jeenbek Osmonaliev, Chair of the Trade Union of Workers of the Agro-Industrial Complex

5. Omor Arstanbekov, Deputy Chair of the FTUK

6. Eldar Tadjibaev, Chair of the Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan

By the end of December 2023, leaders of branch trade unions affiliated with FTUK had simultaneously issued signed resignation letters. While the international labour movement recognises the capacity of trade unions in Kyrgyzstan to advocate for their rights and garner solidarity support, the local unions’ alarming silence compels many to infer that they may be facing an extremely desperate situation, hindering their ability to assert themselves.

The Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI) upholds democratic trade union principles, emphasising the importance of freedoms and workers’ rights. BWI staunchly maintains that the essential right to freedom of association should be safeguarded against any encroachments by governments or employers. Sadly, in Kyrgyzstan, the situation is far from ideal. Despite the conspicuous lack of vocal opposition from trade unions, the undeniable reality is that they are under considerable pressure from state authorities. This external influence has resulted in a state of paralysis, impeding the effective functioning of these unions.

BWI urgently calls for the immediate release of the trade unionists who were arrested last year and urges the initiation of a fair, open, and transparent investigation into the matter. BWI strongly asserts that the arrest and imprisonment of the said trade union leaders were unjust, intended to isolate them from their unions, and to intimidate the broader community of trade unionists.

Furthermore, BWI demands the Kyrgyzstan government to stop interfering with trade union activities without delay. It is imperative for the government to adhere to fundamental labour standards, ensuring the freedom of association for workers as guaranteed by international agreements and the country’s very own constitution.