guy in french airport

just 36 words. HOLY CRAP!! this guy is utterly insane. i can’t even bear to spend three hours in an airport let alone eleven years! my god, i don’t know weather to feel sorry for him or the airport.


1977 is pre-revolution Iran. Wouldn’t his anti-1977-government activities be OK or even admired now in post-revolution Iran? Why can’t they send him home?

Rejoice, airport haters. Merhan Nasseri has been granted political asylum by Belgium (in fact, this happened back in July) and by now has no doubt left the building.

I thought the revolution was in '78 or '79, but now I’m not so sure. It might have been 1977. Still, Iran seems to be becoming more moderate. Has he (or France) looked into whether it would now be safe to send him back to Iran?

Not so sure of that, Brad… Mike Lenehan’s interview with the guy was late in July.

Well, TIME reported in its July 26, 1999 issue that Belgium had granted Nasseri asylum. I’m assuming that the story is true!

OK, Brad, you hadn’t cited a source… TIME, well, we know everything there is true. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

No seriously, though, Lenehan’s interview was a week or so before that, so he musta just missed the announcement.

Also, just because he’s been “granted asylum” doesn’t mean he’s actually left to take them up on the offer.

Isn’t that stated in the original column?

Also, he didn’t want to go anywhere but England, right?

-Russ Flowers

Link to the column being discussed:

Cecil says that his refuge status was reinstated, but it sounded unclear whether he was emotionally ready to leave the airport. I know. I don’t get it either. I, myself have spent the night twice at O’Hare, listening to that maddening Musak (where you think you recognize the tune… but not quite…), guarding a corner to sleep in. I feel like I’m gonna cry when I think of ten years.

Yes, 1977 was definitely pre-revolutionary Iran (which means, by the way, that Mr. Nasseri wouldn’t have had a chance of getting asylum in the US - the Shah was an important American ally in the region). That doesn’t mean Mr. Nasseri would be welcomed, or even allowed, back now. If he had supported the Islamic Revolution, chances are he would have returned to his homeland years before this whole mess started. But if he was agitating for a free press, greater democracy, and so on… the Iranian government may be slowly becoming more “moderate”, but it’s not yet to the point where such a “troublemaker” would be welcome to return. That point won’t be reached for years yet, if ever.

As for why he doesn’t want to go back to Belgium - well, he’s put up with this mess for 11 years. Going back to square one would mean those eleven years were wasted. I don’t think he’s crazy for wanting all those years of his life to mean something.

Sometimes, I have to wonder if the teeming millions actually read what Cecil has taken the trouble to write…

“In 1995 the Belgians kinda caved and said Nasseri could come live in their country if he agreed to be supervised by a social worker. Most people would’ve said, Anything to get out of this frigging airport. Not Nasseri. It was the UK or nothing. He stayed.”

Nasseri didn’t want his asylum re-granted so he could go to Belgium; he had already indicated he had no intention of returning there. He wants to go to England. Unfortunately, “in 1988, when he tried to put this plan into action, his papers were stolen from him at a train station in France. He flew to London anyway but, lacking a passport, was sent back to France by British authorities.” You see, he had two ways to get into Britain. He could have a passport as an Iranian, but as a refugee expelled from Iran in 1977, he didn’t carry one of those lovely gems. However, as a person granted asylum status in a European Community country, he would be entitled to entry to England (hence the need for the papers stolen in France).

Thus, the only questions that now remain are:

  1. Will Belgium send him his papers without him showing in person?
  2. Will France deport him to Belgium will he-nill he?
  3. Will he be given English citizenship or residency based on his claims?

Please, folks: read the column, digest the pablum contained (Cecil does usually manage to make it easily digestible, no easy trick), THEN spew. :wink:

Jill, don’t compare De Gaulle to O’Hare.

I’m assuming that the guy is trapped in the international no-man’s land, past immigration and customs (since if he could get on the other side of immigration and customs, there’s nothing on earth to stop him from taking a taxi into Paris.)

It’s a very nice area, full of duty-free shops where you can buy about anything, and restaurants and bars. I dunno how he pays for things – I suppose his lawyer has set him up with credit cards and a checking account, etc. If he can swing it, there are also some of the airlines executive lounges, which are quite comfortable (although probably not open all night).

It’s bizarre, of course, but it’s not as uncomfortable as domestic air terminals would be. They are geared for long lay-overs, which is not uncommon for international travel.

My thought is this: If i were the french government or airport officials, would it be in my best interests to deport this rather unusual character back to Belgium, or to keep him there… Is he attracting tourists? Is he a safety hasard? Where does he clean himself?

Nasseri’s story is told in more detail at snopes:

Took me a while to find it. I was so sure I knew the story and wondered if Cecil suffered from amnesia…

It took me several attempts to read the column because something in the .gif picture attached to it causes my browser to crash. Every time. I have to turn image loading off for it to work.

Part of the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a “Free Nasseri” movement of any real sort. If he was an activist, doesn’t he have fellow activists? Some sort of a network of people in Britain who were at least sympathetic? Someone to write angry letters to Jack Straw, raise signatures, to talk to MPs and get them to raise the matter in Parliament? Cece mentions a human rights lawyer who’s argued on his behalf, but whoever his people are, they’re not doing a good job.


There was a blurb in this week’s “Newsquirks” column (by Roland Sweet, syndicated) about this guy. It said that he “finally received a long-lost identity document” and he “had been granted refugee status by Belgium, enabling him to apply for a passport.”

But then it went on to say, “Despite the triumph, he said he was in no hurry to leave the airport. ‘He’s too well off staying,’ a waitress at an airport restaurant told Le Figaro. ‘The stewardesses give him their luncheon vouchers, the cleaners open the showers for him at dawn, the tourists buy him food, and the police take great care of him. What more can a man who is alone in the world hope for?’”

Frankly, I think some of those people might be less generous once they realize he is no longer stuck there and is just leeching off of them…

“I, myself have spent the night twice at O’Hare, listening to that maddening Musak (where you think you recognize the tune… but not quite…), guarding a corner to sleep in. I feel like I’m gonna cry when I think of ten years.”

Ah, but European airports are so much more fun. One of the best all-night parties of my life took place in the Madrid airport (let’s just say we probably would’ve been arrested if we’d done the same thing in the US). Still, ten years might be going a little too far …

This guy shouldn’t be given POLITICAL asylum. He should be put into the insane asylum.

Maybe that’s just my humble opinion… Maybe not.

-Justin Howland