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Man at the Airport: How Social Media Saved My Life (One Syrian's Story)

Man at the Airport: How Social Media Saved My Life (One Syrian's Story)

by Hassan Al Kontar
  • history-politics-current-affairs
  • memoir
  • pop-culture

When civil war broke out in his home country in 2011, Hassan Al Kontar was a young Syrian living and working in the UAE. A conscientious objector by faith and temperament, he refused to return to Syria for compulsory military service and lived illegally before being deported to Malaysia in 2017. Unable to obtain a visa for any other country, he became trapped in the arrivals zone at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Exiled by war and trapped by geopolitics, Al Kontar used social media and humour to tell his story to the world, becoming an international celebrity and ultimately finding refuge in Canada.

Man at the Airport explores what it means to be a Syrian, an “illegal” and a refugee. More broadly, it examines the power of social media to amplify individual voices and facilitate political dissent. Hassan Al Kontar was the first—but not the last—to galvanize international public opinion in his own defense.


Hassan Al Kontar, author

Hassan Al Kontar was raised in a prosperous Syrian home, the middle child of a mechanical engineer and nurse. He worked in marketing in the UAE before the war. Now a permanent resident of Canada based in Vancouver, he is employed by the Canadian Red Cross and continues to advocate for refugees around the world.


  • The agony of Syria has been, since 2014, the world’s largest source of refugees. Hassan Al Kontar, a member of the Druze minority from Sweida, 100 kilometres south of Damascus, was one of those who fled his home to avoid being drawn into or crushed by the nightmare of a bloody civil war. Man @the airport is his remarkable story. His is an important story that should touch the conscience of the world. While not a prose masterpiece, the book provides a moving sense of this remarkable young man and those who rallied to help him. It deserves wide attention. I hope it will awaken more of us to what happens to the displaced. Highly recommended. - Tom Sandborn , The Vancouver Sun Link to review
  • Man at the Airport is a testament to the power of one man’s quest for asylum, and how social media has the ability to harness that power – but this book is much more than that. It’s a window into Hassan Al Kontar’s ingenuity, resilience, and determination. A Syrian from the minority Druze community, Al Kontar begins his story by recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ struggle in his new home, Canada. . . In his introduction, Al Kontar states that he does not think of himself as a writer: “They use big words that no one can understand, yet you feel the music in them.” Yet Man at the Airport has a musicality all of its own, sung to us with honesty, grace, and astonishing courage. - Sheniz Janmohamed, Quill and Quire Canada Link to review
  • A powerful story of a refugee exiled by war and trapped in a Malaysian airport by geopolitics, with a cellphone his only tool and publicity his only hope. When the opening line of a personal account starts “For those of us who leave our country for a better future, memory stands still.” you know that you are in the hands of a writer who has a hinterland, both geographic and experiential. Hassan Al Kontar is such a writer. Al-Kontar is a wonderful young man with a wise old soul. He is also a gifted storyteller telling important truths in a hugely readable style. - Paul Blezard , Love Reading UK Link to review

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Tidewater Press Ltd



rights available: World, excl. North America and UK

Additional Information

age range: Adult

number of pages: 232

publication date: 05/20/2021

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book