The Syrian man who’s been stuck in an airport terminal for three months

On Twitter, Hassan Al Kontar shares selfies of himself stuck in Kuala Lumpur's terminal.
On Twitter, Hassan Al Kontar shares selfies of himself stuck in Kuala Lumpur's terminal.

Syrian national Hassan Al Kontar, 36, has been stuck in the international terminal in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur Airport since March 7, 2018. He’s trapped there because, so far, no country has been willing to accept his asylum claim. This Syrian, who refused to serve in the army of his war-torn country, has been uploading photos and videos to Twitter that document his daily life in limbo.

Hassan Al Kontar moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2006. He was working there as a marketing manager in an insurance company. When war broke out in Syria in 2011, he received a summons from his country, demanding that he fulfill his military service. But Al Kontar refused to go back.

“I don’t want to participate in this war,” he explains. “I don’t want to kill anyone and I don’t want to be killed.”

However, as a result, the Syrian embassy refused to renew his passport. In 2012, he lost his work permit and became undocumented. At the end of 2017, he was deported by UAE authorities and sent to Malaysia, a country that will give Syrian citizens three-month tourist visas.

Al Kontar then tried to go to Ecuador, one of the few countries that doesn’t require Syrians to have a visa. However, Turkish Airlines refused to let him board and cancelled his ticket at the last minute.

Next, Al Kontar tried to get on a plane to Cambodia. But he was stopped in Phnom Penh Airport and sent back to Kuala Lumpur. But by that time his visa for Malaysia had expired. So he found himself trapped in the airport.


Al Kontar has been stuck in Terminal 2 ever since. Every day, he launches appeals for help on Twitter, with the hope of finding a country willing to open its doors to him. He spoke to FRANCE 24:

"I depend on the kindness of the airport authorities, who bring me coffee and also buy me food”

I sleep on the seats reserved for passengers. Sometimes, I sleep on the floor. But I don’t sleep much. I usually only manage to sleep two or three hours per night because people are constantly coming and going.

It can be a real challenge to even get a cup of coffee. I don’t have access to duty-free stores, so I depend on the kindness of the airport employees, who bring me coffee and food.

It’s hard. It’s always noisy. You can never get used to it. I have no privacy. I even have to wash in the public bathrooms.


“Dark humour keeps me sane”

However, Al Kontar hasn’t given up. He even manages to laugh about his situation. Some of his videos are full of jokes. He explains:


I often use dark humour. It keeps me sane. I’d rather laugh about my situation when I know that I am powerless to change it. That brings me moments of joy and gives me hope.

For example, I wrote a letter to NASA asking them to hire me for their next expedition to Mars, because there is no place for me on earth.

My story is the story of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who, like me, are rejected as if we were diseased. We Syrians are suffering from the ravages of a war that we didn’t want, that other people are carrying out in our country.

I’m exhausted but I am hanging in there. I am hopeful that I’ll find a country that will accept me. In late April, I met a group of Canadians in the terminal who went on to create a support group. They hired a lawyer to file an asylum claim for me in Canada. I really hope this will work out.

Al Kontar’s support group filed a request for a visa at the Canadian Ministry of Immigration. However, as this procedure can take more than two years, they have also launched an online petition to try and speed things up.