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The taxi driver who doubled as a bounty hunter
On the face of it, Zakir was simply a veteran taxi driver and a popular member of the community in Bradford. Few customers would have realised that behind his bubbly exterior he provided another, much more sinister service. For around £5,000, Zakir would track down women and girls who had run away from home to escape a forced marriage. A bounty hunter, Zakir's mission was to bring them back to their families.
While most locals in the tightly knit south Asian community thought Zakir was merely picking up and dropping off passengers each day, his work provided perfect cover to exploit his contacts with fellow drivers and shopkeepers to hunt down runaway teenagers. According to Zakir, some bounty hunters would also befriend officials in housing departments and in the Department for Work and Pensions to get National Insurance numbers – a strategy confirmed by campaigners against forced marriages.
Zakir's job was never to harm his targets, but to return them home to face their "destiny" of being made to marry someone their parents had chosen. Despite the fact that runaways can be beaten for having escaped, he sides with the families on the issue. The softly spoken driver, speaking to G2 on the condition his real name was not used, insisted: "I did it as a favour to the families, as I knew most of them. It wasn't about the money. It was about izzat [honour]. I saw the effect it had on them when their daughter ran away. The worry and the shame from the community talking about them. I was part of the 'taxi driver network', so we shared information about who we picked up and where they got dropped off.
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