Stranded in an Airport 7 months, now Asylum in Canada


Hassan al-Kontar, 37, left his home in Syria for the United Arab Emirates in 2006.

Stranded in Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he slept under stairwells and lived off leftover chicken-and-rice dinners from AirAsia flights.

He documented his daily life in video diaries that he posted on Twitter, inspiring comparisons to Tom Hanks’ character in 2004′s “The Terminal.”

Kontar, 37, left his home in Syria for the United Arab Emirates in 2006 to avoid being forced into mandatory military service.

2011, civil war broke out and the Syrian government refused to renew his passport.

Kontar feared that if he returned to Syria, he would be forced to join the military or thrown in jail.

“I’m not a killing machine and I don’t want any part in destroying Syria,” he told the BBC. “I don’t want blood on my hands.”

When his passport expired, Kontar’s work permit, too, became invalid.

After working under the table for several years, he was arrested and told to leave the country.

He flew to Malaysia, one of the few countries where Syrians have a chance of getting a visa.


Kontar flew to Cambodia instead, but wasn’t granted permission to enter the country.

Out of money and out of options, he made the terminal his home.

Embracing the absurdity of his situation, Kontar posted pictures of himself tending his garden – a single potted plant – and walking a stuffed animal on a leash.

In June, he posted a screenshot of an email that he had sent to NASA, asking if he could join the next mission to Mars.

As the summer dragged on, Kontar fluctuated between lightheartedness and despair.

In one tweet posted in late July, he lamented a massacre carried out by ISIS and complained that world leaders were violating his human rights by not granting him asylum.

His next post came four days later and showed him perched on top of a baggage cart and dancing to Drake’s “In My Feelings” as part of the viral Keke Challenge.

Unable to escape the monotony of Terminal 2, Kontar derived joy from small pleasures, like a gift of Starbucks instant coffee.

One Sunday, a janitor briefly propped open a door leading out to the tarmac.

For the first time in 122 days, Kontar could breathe fresh air from the outside world.

“This is what I call a great day.” he wrote on Twitter, posting a photograph of the sunlight-flooded hallway.

Kontar’s video diaries got international attention, and thousands of people began following his near-daily updates.

Among them was Laurie Cooper, a complete stranger living in Whistler, British Columbia, who, along with a group of friends, petitioned Canada’s immigration minister to admit Kontar as a refugee.

At the beginning of October, Kontar’s updates abruptly stopped.

Malaysian officials said that he had been arrested for being in a restricted area of the airport without a boarding pass.

Panic set in among Kontar’s sponsors, who urged Canadian officials to speed up the resettlement process, fearing that he would be deported to Syria.

Finally, on Sunday, Cooper got a text message from Kontar: He was on his way.

The next morning, a new video appeared at the top of his Twitter feed for the first time in months.

Arriving in Vancouver late Monday night, Kontar made one thing clear: he was done with airports for good.

“I’ve done my time in airports, no more airports,” he said, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


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