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Elim Garak is the son of the notorious Obsidian Order operative Enabran Tain, who became head of the Order in 2348. Tain was extremely disappointed in his son, and never hesitated to let him know it. As a way of disciplining him, Garak’s father would lock him in a closet, which contributed to the crippling claustrophobia Garak would struggle with throughout his life.

Garak himself pursued a career in the Obsidian Order, and was once a high-ranking official. However, Garak betrayed the Order in 2368, and Tain ordered him executed. The exact reason for this is unknown. Garak himself has given several contradictory explanations. However, Garak escaped before he could be executed, and was instead exiled to Deep Space 9.

As a Cardassian on Deep Space 9, Garak has faced general mistrust and animosity from many of the other residents, especially Bajorans. However, over time he has developed some friendships, notably with Doctor Bashir and Security Chief Odo. Though he works as a tailor, his background has proven valuable to the Deep Space 9 crew more than once, and the “outcast spy” has gradually gained acceptance, and even respect, aboard the station.