A man with luggage sitting in an airport terminal is not such a strange sight. One that does so for more than 18 years is however quite peculiar. This feature is about Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who, after several failed attempts at flying to the UK, ended up being routed to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France where he remained from August 26, 1988 until July 2006 when he was hospitalized.
His story has several layers, and for several years the truth of his origins were obscured by fabrications from even his own imagination. He claimed to have been expelled from Iran, and was on his way to London to find his biological mother. The truth was that he was born in a relatively satisfactory social class in Iran where his father worked with an oil company and his mother was a nurse working with the same company.
Nasseri claims that he was told by his mother that he was an illegitimate child so he was on his way to find his biological mother. However, she disputes this claim and there is no evidence that he had ever been expelled from Iran.
He remained in Terminal 1 at the airport after being returned for failing to present a passport to British immigration officials. He even gained the help of French human rights lawyer Christian Bourget. He remained in limbo since legally he could not enter France but there was no law against him remaining in the airport.
He was offered citizenship in several countries including Belgium, and France but he refused the offers. By this time it appeared he was even having an identity crisis, calling himself Sir Alfred, refusing to speak Iranian and denying that he was even from Iran.
His situation gained international attention, with DreamWorks production purchasing the rights to his story, people writing to him from all over the world and airport staff and journalists giving attention to his story. He even inspired several movies. In 2004 he published his own autobiography.
His experience is a real-life exploration of what it really means to be stateless. It sparks thought into the reality of an individual being continuously surrounded by people but ultimately being alone.