Words by Elizabeth Cuomo
It’s a fact: Airports are characteristically uncomfortable. Cranky babies, overpriced ham sandwiches, and of course, delays, delays, and more delays. If you’re still griping about your crappy flight this past Thanksgiving weekend, you can be thankful that your trip home wasn’t anything like Hassan al-Kontar’s.
Today, Hassan’s six-month-long stay in the Malaysian Kuala Lumpur International Airport finally came to a close, when he was granted asylum into Canada.
Hassan began living in the Kuala Lumpur airport in March of 2018. After the Syrian war broke out eight years ago, Hassan was deported to Malaysia. At the airport, he was denied acceptance into any country. There, he remained trapped in the limbo of an airport terminal, with no certainty or future of release.
With nothing but time on his hands, Hassan took to Twitter. Reading his feed, @Kontar81, feels like an SOS signal. Hassan used the hashtag #syrian_stuck_at_airport, to document the identical meals he ate day after day, his sleeping quarters, and his singular depressing view of the airport tarmac. He even created an infographic of his life, “for the new followers”.
When Hassan spoke to Buzzfeed in May, the internet sprang into action. With the help from the Canada Caring Society and the British Columbia Muslim Association, a petition to the Canadian Minister of Immigration to grant Hassan asylum amassed over 62,000 signatures.
Today, Hassan tweeted a video to his 19K followers, thanking everyone who supported him and asking for people to think of others, “who need it the most, in refugee camps and detention camps, all over the world. I hope they will be safe and legal soon too.”
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