Hassan al-Kontar is a Syrian refugee who has finally been granted asylum by Canada, after being stranded at Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia since March. While he was living in the airport, his life was very similar to the life that’s presented in the popular 2004 Hollywood film The Terminal.
Kontar had been working in the United Arab Emirates when the war in Syria broke out in 2010. Later, in 2011, his visa expired, but Kontar didn’t want to go home, because he feared being arrested by the Syrian government because he had not fulfilled the military service duties. So he chose to illegally stay in the United Arab Emirates. He had a lot of success hiding from officials and living in the country, until one day in 2016, when authorities caught up on him and deported him. And since Malaysia is one of the only countries around the world where people arriving don’t need to get a visa before they arrive, he was sent there. Unfortunately, when Kontar landed, the authorities in Malaysia refused to allow him to leave the airport, nor take another flight that left the country, which is how he ended up getting stuck in the transit zone inside the airport.
He then realized that he might have to end up living inside the transit zone for a while, so he took to social media and started sharing photos and posts about his life. He talked about where he slept inside the airport, what he ate, and various other details about the strange situation he was in. This led to him gaining a big following on social media, including the human rights organization Canada Caring Society. As soon as they learned his story, they launched a petition in order to release him and gained 62,000 signatures.
But two months ago, he stopped posting on social media, and while many of his followers were worried about what had happened, it turned out that the Malaysian authorities had moved him to a detention center. But at the end of November, he surprised and delighted everyone when he shared a video update on his Twitter where he said he was traveling to Vancouver and had been granted asylum.