To those who are suffering silently in the Immigrants jail in #Abu Dhabi #UAE, stuck there for months without the simplest #HumanRights what so ever, not even allowed to make a phone call, meet with a visitor, or be in front of a judge. I am your #voice#refugees #Qatar #Syria pic.twitter.com/hqxCA9wb5u— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) January 20, 2018
UPDATE: Hassan Al Kontar, a Syrian man who has been stuck in the Kuala Lumpur international airport’s transit zone, has been unable to leave for nearly 50 days.
.@Kontar81 has been living in KL airport for more than a month, so I tried to meet him. But he's not allowed to leave the arrivals area so we sat on either sides of a glass barrier. Me for @guardian on one way Syrians have been left powerless by the war https://t.co/zV9O06f6tE pic.twitter.com/v9faBp07EB— Kaamil Ahmed (@KaamilAhmed) April 12, 2018
Without a valid passport or visa, he claimed he lost his work permit after the war in Syria started and is not allowed to enter Malaysia. He has also tried going to other countries where he didn’t need a visa, but he was not allowed to leave.
In an interview for The Guardian, Kontar said that going back to Syria is not an option.
“Syria is out of the question, even if I am staying here forever. I don’t want to be part of the fight, I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t want to be killed as well. It’s not my war.”
The 36-year-old said that all he wants is a way out.
“I don’t know what to say or what to do. I need a solution, I need a safe place where I can be legally, with work,” he explained.
Stuck in the transit zone, Kontar has been existing solely on the food provided by the airline. Unable to properly wash his clothes, he uses the toilet for travelers with disabilities to shower.
“I use it after midnight, [when] less people are there.”
He’s been trying to ask for help online by making others aware of the plight of Syrians like him by uploading video blogs on Twitter. In the meantime, he told reporters, he remains concerned.
“You’re worried about your family [and] all these psychological pressures you have, but most of the time you’re trying to solve your temporary issues,” said Kontar.
On Twitter, users wondered if Kontar could get a crowdfunding page going. Others demonstrated exactly how poorly Syrians are treated by calling him a terrorist.
Um. Wow. To think I passed thru that same terminal Kuala Lumpur airport last month and probably walked past him. Does he have any way to accept donations, if even just for airport food? Its not cheap inside.— Semyon KUPO Mooglevich (@subverzo) April 13, 2018
That terrorist needs to go back to his country— Rich Savage (@RichSavage_101) April 24, 2018
Some urged officials to help.
@pmmalaysia Dear PM I would request you to grant him asylum even though temporarily on humanitarian grounds subject to condition and rules of country. We all know the value of home and family which he has none.— Dillipkm (@Dillip_6223) April 24, 2018
Regardless of how you see the conflict in Syria, it’s clear that many Syrians who have run away because they are afraid for their lives or because they do not agree with the war are suffering tremendously. It’s time to pressure officials not only in other countries but in the U.S. to help find solutions to the refugee crisis.
The story of a Syrian man stuck in a Malaysian airport reminds us just how terribly refugees from Middle Eastern countries are being treated everywhere.
Hassan al Kontar, 36, claimed he could be arrested in Syria for refusing to join the country’s military. But for the past 37 days, he has been living in another type of "prison" as he's stuck in the Kuala Lumpur airport, unable to board any plane.
"I don't know how long I will be here. I know of some Syrian people who were stuck in the airport for a year," he said.
PART 1— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) March 22, 2018
What dose it mean to be a #Syrian.
My name is Hassan and this is my #story #trendingchallenge #Trending #syria #hope #lifequotes #humanrace #storyteller #funnymemes #Canada #TVD #news #old #lifestyle #photography #photo #ecuador #Australia #Airport #instagram #free pic.twitter.com/HCTZEnZxTB
PART 2— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) March 23, 2018
What dose it mean to be a #Syrian.
My name is Hassan and this is my #story #trendingchallenge #Trending #syria #hope #lifequotes #humanrace #news #funnymemes #Canada #Help #DeleteFacebook #lifestyle #photography #photo #ecuador #Australia #Airport #instagram #free pic.twitter.com/nHB9X9Qfn3
#syrian_stuck_airport#mystory_Hassan #airport_is_my_home#the_terminal_movie— Hassan Al Kontar (@Kontar81) April 7, 2018
This is my 32 days @JustinTrudeau @tomhanks @guardian @AP @TIME @washingtonpost @nytimes @RT_Erdogan @SophieT @Maisie_Williams @liamcunningham1 @IAMLenaHeadey @nikolajcw @FoxNews @cnni @ABC @TheSun pic.twitter.com/IJUupKmqv6
While he tries to figure out what to do, all that is left for him is to simply sleep in the terminal and live on airport food.
According to Sky News, the man arrived in Malaysia in January 2017. With an initial visa of three months, he ended up staying longer after being deported from the United Arab Emirates. In February 2018, as he was readying to travel to Ecuador where he doesn’t need a visa, he was turned away. He then tried going to Cambodia, but he was also kept from boarding.
While in the UAE, he worked in marketing and energy before the Syrian war started in 2011. Since then, he said, things have been much more difficult.
"Since 2011, no one wants us," he explained. "We are rejected, lonely, hated. People look at us now as terrorists."
While at the airport, he started uploading videos online to tell his story. He also contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and asked for help.
Phil Robertson, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that he hopes things get resolved quickly for Kontar.
“If he's found to be a refugee, it's urgent that Malaysia permit him to seek third country resettlement without hindrance,” he explained.
Kontar, who is unable to shower or wash his clothes in the airport, is not just feeling lonely and scared for himself. He also fears for the future of his country, thinking that another bombing campaign from the United States won’t do anything to help.
“How many messages did they send before," he asked. "Did they stop [Syrian President Bashar al Assad] doing whatever he wants? He's not going to pay attention. He's winning, he's gaining ground. No one is hearing us.”
The UNHCR has contacted the Malaysian authorities over Kontar's situation.
It’s incredibly disheartening to see an individual stuck in limbo, and it’s even more alarming as many other Syrians like him are suffering tremendously to find a peaceful place to live.