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Man at the Airport

How social media saved my life - one Syrian's story

by (author) Hassan Al Kontar

foreword by Nuseir (Nas) Yassin

Tidewater Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Creative Writing, English Language Arts, Social Justice, Social Studies
Grade Levels
10 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price

Where to buy it

Descriptive Review

This first-person account is a highly readable and relatable introduction to a refugee or social justice study for secondary students. Stranded in a Malaysian airport without a passport, with the only available option returning to Syria to fight in a wartime army, Al Kontar uses his cellphone and the power of social media to broadcast his story to the world. This book chronicles one refugee’s journey to obtain legal status as he attempts to navigate the complex labyrinth of work and study permits, visas, and country regulations. With a positive and humorous outlook, Al Kontar describes living out of his car, serving jail sentences, and camping out for months at the airport arrivals terminal. As his plight went viral, he was finally able to work through bureaucracy to obtain Canadian refugee status.

232 pp., 5.5 × 8.5"

Source: Association of Book Publishers of BC - BC Books for Schools (2021-2022)

About the authors

Hassan Al Kontar was raised in a prosperous Syrian home, the middle child of a mechanical engineer and nurse. He was working in the UAE when his work permit expired and civil war broke out in his home country. A conscientious objector by faith and temperament, he opted for a hand—to—mouth existence in the shadows until he was arrested and deported. Now a permanent resident of Canada based in Vancouver, he advocates for refugees around the world.

Hassan Al Kontar's profile page

Nuseir (Nas) Yassin's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"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 not to be drawn into the war in his homeland . . . [It] has a musicality all of its own, sung to us with honesty, grace, and astonishing courage." SHENIZ JANMOHAMED, Quill & Quire

"This is the fascinating survival story of a migrant worker who, falling victim to geopolitical forces beyond his control, ends up in stateless limbo and is forced to rely on instinct, intelligence, and fortitude — plus the kindness of strangers — to avoid the grim prospect of returning to his homeland . . . Once I opened Al Kontar’s highly readable and deeply affecting memoir, I finished it in a couple of sittings." DANIEL GAWTHROP, The British Columbia Review.

"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, LoveReading UK