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Ukrainian Woman Died in Erbil the Night Salon Owner Forced her to Work with COVID- 19

Updated: Jul 15

#Ukraine died at the height of the #Coronavirus Pandemic in #Erbil after having her Passport taken by the Women running the beauty salon she worked at. The Salon owner also threatened to ensure she never would allowed back into The #Kurdistan Regional Governance, known often as the #KRG, an Autonomous Region in Northern #Iraq or even Iraq in general.


A reliable source in Iraq who wishes to remain anonymous contacted me to tell me the story of her friend, fellow Ukrainian Zinaida Kovalova and how this otherwise young healthy young Woman ended up dying from #Coronavirus after being forced to work while severely ill.

A Ukrainian source who wishes to remain anonymous contacted me to tell me the story of her friend and fellow Ukrainian, Zinaida Kovalova, and how this otherwise young healthy women ended up dying of Coronavirus. The night she died she wanted to go to the Hospital but due to threats made by the Salon Owner, who had her passport, she was coerced into going into work that day. If she was able to go to the Hospital she may have been alive today, although that is impossible to know for sure, what is for sure is that Zinaida Kovalova was subject to abuse by a business owner with money and connections and nothing has been done about it, this as workers continue to be abused throughout the Kurdistan Regional Governance. Many people have heard through various news outlets about people from Countries such Bangladesh or Sri Lanka having their Passports taking by those that hire them as maids or other low paying positions in places like the United Arab Emirates and a abuses they face but little has been reported on the ongoing abuses in this autonomous region of Northern Iraq. This as not only refugees and IDP's face daily abuses, but even Eastern Europeans who travel to the region also face severe abuses and although illegal, often get their passports taken as a condition to them working, leaving them with little options, which can often can end in tragic circumstances, with workers being abused on a daily basis by their employers.

The day Miss Kovalova died she insisted she needed to go to the Hospital her boss at Shayda Beauty Salon, Shayda Abdl Karem, who is often called Shayda Khan by her employees to mark her status. Instead of being allowed to go to the Hospital Shayda Abdl Karem used coercion as well as threats that she Miss Kovalova would never be able to step foot in Iraq again and "to be happy in Russia" to get her to go into work. Using the name Khan in Northern Iraq is similar to someone being called "Lady" in the West and is a mark of power, money, status and influence. Miss Kovalova would end up going in to work even though she was incredibly sick and very contagious from Coronavirus on the last day of her life, not only likely increasing if not causing Miss Kovalova's death, but also causing a serious risk to public health in general do to the fact that Coronavirus is so highly contagious. Miss Kovalova pleaded that she need treatment from Doctors and to be in a Hospital, which given her death that night, was clearly was necessary. Instead, as often happens in #Erbil, her lack of power and connections left her in the position with little options, leaving her to be coerced into going into work instead of going for possible life saving treatment at the Hospital.

Below are some of the last text messages Zinaida Kovalova ever sent, her attempts to be allowed by the Owner of Shayda Beauty Salon to go to the Hospital, along with the Whatsapp number of "Shayda Khan"*, with the last four digits edited out.

*Spelled Shaida Khan by Miss Kovalova in the text messages.

Messages sent by the source that were between the Owner of Shadya Beauty Salon and

Zinaida Kovalova the day Zinadia died after working with #COVID19.


As the text messages show Miss Kovalova was desperately ill and wanted her Passport back, which her employer should never have been able to take in the first place. Instead her employer instructed her to drink water and eat and that she can rest later, while also stating the consequences if Miss Kovalova did not come into work, which unfortunately, more often than not, are not just empty threats. Often within the KRG working conditions are terrible for people from outside the Kurdistan Regional Governance, sometimes called Iraqi Kurdistan in the West or "Başûr" for Southern Kurdistan locally, with the exception of those who come from "Western" Countries including the Americas and Western Europe. People not from the KRG often end up working thirteen hour days with no days off and little pay. They often even have their pay withheld for months at a time. Many workers work this much for $300-$350 USD a month, which is barely enough be able to rent a room with a shared bathroom and kitchen in a cheap area, and pay for food and electricity, yet from contacting employees it is very clear this business owner takes it even further. Most employees were too scared to speak about the working conditions and threats made by "Shayda Khan" even to a friend, especially after the death of Miss Kovalova. They are even more scared because they doubt anything will be done about someone with both money and connections even though a person died, at least in part, due to the working conditions at Shadya Beauty Salon.

They are even more scared about speaking about this given the owner has confiscated their passports, the person who did come forward stated "most of the girls do not want to come forward but I am not afraid, just you know, they treat us like s**t, even worse". Some of the Women who worked for Shadya Beauty Salon did not want the s, the Capital of the KRG have a member of the Barzani Family as a "co-owner" as that provides them protection and ensures they do not have problems with the Government as the President, President Barzani and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani are both leaders within the Barzani Tribe and members of the long time Governing Party, The Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, which has long been extremely powerful in the Region. The KDP, known in Kurdish as the PDK or The Partiya Demokrat a Kurdistanê has long been powerful in Southern Kurdistan and is dominated by the Barzani Tribe. Whether its Ukrainians, Syrians, IDP's from Southern Iraq, or any other workers who are not from the Kurdistan Regional Governance the abuse of workers is widespread, ranging from not getting paid to sexual assault, unless they are from more powerful Western Countries, and it is unlikely to change anytime soon as neither business owners nor the Government has any incentive to protect workers rights within the KRG and for women going to the Asayish or Police can often cause them to be victimized even more, something I unfortunately witnessed myself while at a Police Station in Ankawa.

The last known messages between Zinaida Kovalova and her friend, which translated into English from Ukrainian reads:

Message 1 (Zinaida Kovalova): Hello

Message 2 (Anonymous Friend): Hello

Message 3 (Zinaida Kovalova): Can I type in 2 words?

Message 4 (Anonymous Friend): Of course


The owner of Shadya Beauty Salon, "Shayda Khan", owns multiple Salons throughout #Erbil including at the time of Miss Kovalova's death two in Ankawa and one near Majidi Mall. The death of Zinaida Kovalova is just one of many tragic stories of the abuse of workers in the Kurdistan Regional Governance. Often large business owners, especially in #Erbil, which is the Capital of the Kurdistan Regional Governance, have a member of the Barzani Family as a "co-owner" which in turn provides them with protection and ensures they do not have problems with the Government as the President, Nechirvan Barzani and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani are both leaders within the Barzani Tribe, which has historically been extremely powerful throughout the Southern Kurdistan Region, as while as Eastern Kurdistan which is in #Iran and known as Rojhilatê in Kurdish. They are also members of the long time Governing Party, The Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, which has long been powerful in the Region and is dominated by the Barzani Tribe. Whether it is #Ukrainians, #Syrians, #IDP's from Southern Iraq, or any other workers who are not from the Kurdistan Regional Governance the abuse of workers is widespread, ranging from not getting paid to sexual assault. This fact is unlikely to change anytime soon either, as neither business owners nor the Government have any incentive to protect workers rights within the #KRG.

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