Ethnic Kiwi taxi drivers scared of racist attacks

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Christchurch (New Zealand), July 3 (ANI): Taxi drivers of ethnic origin in New Zealand have said they are scared of driving at night, as they believe that is the time when drunk and abusive passengers frequently carry out racially-motivated attacks.

Afghan origin taxi driver Abdul Salimi, who is based in Christchurch for the last nine years, no longer fancies driving his taxi at night, because of this fear.

Though he wants to get away from driving, quitting is not an option, as he is a fulltime student, studying advanced English and mathematics, and drives at night to support his wife and two children.

The Press quoted him as saying: "I have to try hard to make life easier for the next generation. I say to myself, 'How can I feed my kids?"'

He says most drivers, regardless of nationality, are concerned about driving at night.

"It's not just me. Everyone is scared, especially of people who are really drunk. It doesn't mean they are bad people - they are normal like us - but while they are drunk their behaviour and attitude changes," he adds.

Salimi's worst fears were realised in December 2008 when his best friend, 39-year-old father-of-five Abdulrahman Ikhtiari, was killed by two youths. He died in his taxi.

Since Ikhtiari's death, Salimi has always bid farewell to his family before going to work.

"Any time I leave home, I kiss and hug my kids and say to them, 'Goodbye, look after your mum and be good boys'.

"I can read from their eyes that they are saying, 'Dad, we need you, look after yourself and come back home'."

Salimi says he still struggles with aspects of New Zealand culture, especially drunkenness.

Patrick O'Connor, co-director of Christchurch's Peeto - The Multicultural Learning Centre, says many migrant drivers feel "disenfranchised" because of racism.

The unreported violence and number of near misses are high, he says.

Christchurch is home to about 170 ethnic groups. (ANI)

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