A Syrian man completed a year of his forced residency in Istanbul's Atatürk International Airport on Tuesday following his flight from the war-torn country in 2012 and subsequent journey that led him to spend the past year in a section of the airport.
27-year-old Fadi Mansour has been held at the airport since March 15, 2015, in a room with no natural light or beds called the "Problematic Passengers Room" at Atatürk Airport.
"Right now, my only dream is to sleep with the lights off. Then to see the daylight and go out into the open air. But these are of secondary importance. My main trouble is the lighting. This light is too much. I have had enough," Mansour said in an article published by Turkish news website Bianet.
For Mansour, it all started in 2012 when he fled from Syria to Lebanon to avoid military service as a conscientious objector. He was at the fourth year of his law studies when he had to leave. In Lebanon, he was kept hostage for ransom by a local group for months, and arrived in Turkey in 2014. After spending a month, he decided to go to Malaysia but his entrance to the country was denied for using fake ID information. He arrived in Turkey on March 2015, and spent eight months at the airport waiting for his entrance to Turkey to be approved, until he was attacked by another person in the "Problematic Passengers Room[D2] ." Mansour then decided to return to Lebanon and flew there on Nov. 20, 2015, but he was also denied entrance there, and upon his return to Turkey again on Nov. 2015, he was taken into custody, where he has remained ever since.
His lawyer stated that he is being accused of using a fake passport to enter Turkey and the risk for his deportation continues. There have been attempts to appeal to Turkey's Directorate General of Migration Management for the approval his entrance to the country but the whole procedure has been very slow so far.
Meanwhile, Mansour had to cope with the difficulties of living in the airport for a year. He told that during that period, he mainly ate sandwiches distributed to him and his roommates, about30 to 40 strangers, he slept on benches and sofas and was only allowed from time to time to walk in the shopping areas of the airport. All these led him to think returning to Syria after all is not a bad idea. "At least, you only die once in Syria, it is better than dying every day here," he said.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has appealed to Turkey for Mansour on Tuesday.
Turkish authorities have yet to comment on the case highlighted Tuesday by Amnesty, which says Fadi Mansour has been held since March 15, 2015. But the official Anadolu Agency said he had been hosted at the problematic travelers' room for nine months because migration authorities were still assessing his case. It quoted unnamed officials who denied he was being kept in adverse conditions.
Amnesty, which first flagged his case in December, said Mansour's detention may constitute "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and urged authorities to ensure he won't be returned to Syria. "What is incredibly unusual about this case is how long it has lasted," said Andrew Gardner, the Turkey researcher at Amnesty International.
Maintaining its open door policy since the beginning of the war, Turkey currently hosts 2.7 million refugees inside its borders, only of which some 280,000 reside in refugee camps, while the remaining population is being dispersed around the country. Mansour's case remains one of the few exceptions as Turkey has initiated simplified border procedures to facilitate the entrances of Syrian refugees, provided them with ID's, free health and education services.
Mansour's case reminded the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who spent 18 years in Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which set the basis for the 2004 movie "The Terminal" starring Tom Hanks.