March 25, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

During a large part of last year, and for around the two last months, we have been going through a bad time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the time, we have remained isolated inside our houses, and have not felt ourselves as “free people”. For most, being inside their houses for a long period is just like being in prison.  All these periods of lockdowns are also badly affecting our psychology.

In this background,  yesterday I re-read the news and articles about Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the man who spent 18 long years inside the building of Charles De Gaulle Airport. I watched “The Terminal” where Tom Hanks played the role of a person trapped inside an airport building. Badly affected by the ongoing lockdowns, I believe that now I can understand better the psychological state of Nasseri. I recommend all of you to watch “The Terminal”, just because now we are in that particular state of mind when we can understand the feeling of such a person.

Just to mention in short, Mehran Karimi Nasseri, Iranian by birth, is said to have been expelled from Iran due to his political differences with the then regime of King Raza Shah Pahlawi. Subsequently he managed to get refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Belgium. In 1988 he decided to move to the UK from Belgium. On his way from Belgium to the UK, via Paris, he allegedly lost his papers. He was sent back by the British Officials, as he did not have the proper papers to enter the country.

From there on a queer story full of suspense started. Too many legal activities, and further actions of the like, yet the ultimate result did not change. Nasseri remained inside the airport building for about 18 years. He had entered that building on 26th August 1988, and did not get out until July 2006, when he became seriously sick. At that time the authorities took him to hospital, from where he was ultimately moved to a refugee camp in Paris, where he is believed to be still living.

As per the information available in Wikipedia and many other sites, he survived for such a long period of time with the help of the people working inside the terminal building. He was said to have allotted himself a corner of the building, where he was spending most of his time, including sleeping at night. After a lapse of some years, he had become a well known person in the building, as the passengers had started recognising him as a permanent resident of the building. Youngsters often asked for his autographs and took photos.

For me, however the main question remains the same. “What had he been feeling stranded inside that building for eighteen years?”  Even prisoners who spend their time inside the prison, believing to be released on one particular day after serving their time of imprisonment. But that was not the case with Nasseri. He never knew when his ordeal would come to an end. Spending eighteen long years in a state of uncertainty is indeed something too much for a normal person.

But he survived all this. He wrote his autobiography, and film producers made movies on the basis of his ordeal.

I would recommend here to watch the film “The Terminal”, to have some idea about the condition of a person stranded inside an airport for a long period of time.

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