There has been an unprecedented spike in hate crimes with people receiving Islamophobic abuse following the Manchester Arena bombing and London Bridge attack, and taxi drivers are no exception.
Hard-working 29-year-old Bradford man, Awais Hussain, was bricked by hooded white teenagers whilst on his shift as he drove down Woodhouse Lane in Leeds on Friday 16th June.
With one brick flying in through the car window and hitting him in the face, others smashed his windscreen.
“The impact was so shocking I initially I thought I’d been shot. I looked down and all I could see was blood. It was everywhere,” says Awais reliving the harrowing experience.
“I was driving down the road with my window open and I heard a brick hit the front of my car but it hit the road and thought kids were messing about again.
“Two seconds later more stones were thrown and one made it through the window and hit me.
“I parked the car up, got out and fell to the floor. Someone walking by stopped and helped me to my feet. As I got up my head was in so much pain I got to my car and pressed the emergency button.”
Fortunately, a fellow taxi driver had seen the incident dialled the police, while a member of the public dialled for an Ambulance.
“I was at the LGI for about six-hours that night. The doctors glued and stitched my nose but I couldn’t get to sleep all night. I was in shock. I still am,” adds Awais.
Awais says the youngsters were in the area following the attack around 11pm that night, but police but officers were unable to make any arrests.
The shaken taxi driver says that incident could have been much worse had he swerved the car and hit pedestrians. He added that it could easily have been a more dire situation had he not slammed on his brakes.
Not only has the family man lost earnings with him being off work, his insurance company has refused to pay for damages to his vehicle.
“I go out every day to earn an honest living and provide for my wife and myself. No one expects to be unable to work for something like this.
“When people ring up the police with complaints, I believe it goes to the bottom of the list. Drivers have said the often don’t get an immediate response.
“Less people report an incident because they believe nothing will happen, so what’s the point?
“The only reason they were so quick with me was because I was actually injured.”
Awais had a final message for his attacker: “When you are out of school there are other ways to spend your time. It might seem fun but these actions are affecting lives and could cause serious injury to pedestrians and passengers in the taxi you’re attacking.”
Councillor calls for change
Following Awais’s attack, Councillor Javaid Akhtar called for a meeting with West Yorkshire Police, the press, Leeds City Council and taxi drivers at Woodsley Road Community Centre in Hyde Park.
Cllr Akhtar says that an alarming number of taxi drivers are not reporting hate incidents to the police, either because they just have the work ethic of “get on with it” or for fear of seeming to be wasting valuable police time.
“To be attacked for doing your job should not be tolerated and that’s why I called the meeting,” says Cllr Akhtar.
Speaking to the Asian Express, he adds: “We are trying to encourage drivers to report every single incident, and that schools need to educate their young people to be more responsible.”
“Children in school need to be told how dangerous their seemingly ‘bit of fun’ could be.
“Throwing stones or bricks at a driving vehicle could have dire consequences.
“More often than not, cabbies are not reporting these crimes because they see no end result – they still have to fix their own vehicles regardless of what the damage and still need to get up and go out for work the next day because they need to earn a living.
“Unless we all collaborate, things will not change.”
West Yorkshire Police sergeant John McNiff said: “There have been arrests and they are usually school children, some even under the age of criminality.
“Ultimately we want to eradicate the issue but are best bet is to highlight ‘hot-spot’ areas.”
A number of drivers said they had been targeted by youth in Leeds throwing stones and provided a list of the most dangerous areas: Armley Ridge Road, Armley; Cockshott Lane, Armley; Easterly Road, Gipton and York Road and Halton Moor.