Syrian Has Been Stuck In Malaysia Airport For Nearly 50 Days

A Syrian man has been stuck at the airport for over a month since he was not allowed to board planes to different countries. Now, he said he fears for the future.

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.

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.

Some urged officials to help.

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.

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.


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