If you’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal”, starring Tom Hanks, you must’ve known that it is based on a true story about a man being stuck at an airport for almost two decades.
The movie is based on the life of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, currently 73, who was forced to stay at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years.
It all started in 1973 when Mehran was part of an activist group who opposed against King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, while studying at the University of Bradford, England. Reza implemented monarchial laws during his rulership in Iran, which goes against the teachings of Islam and it’s the reason behind Mehran and his group’s protest.
Iran’s government at that time felt that the protest defiled the monarchy for the king’s institution, causing them to issue a warrant in 1977, which sees Mehran being sent to prison once he returns from England for the offense of holding a protest abroad.
In 1981, Iran’s government decided to exile him from the country and gave him an official banishment letter for the reason of conspiring against its government. Mehran, who needed a place to stay in exile, chose to seek asylum in England under the advice of the United Nations.
Before entirely moving to England, Mehran was struck with bad luck when he decided to take a detour by staying in France. Badly enough, he lost the official letter which is required for him to enter the country’s border. Without the letter, he was forced to stay at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport as he was not allowed to leave the international ground (airport space).
At first, it was hard for the runaway as he couldn’t speak French at all, and deep down, he was hoping someone could get him out of the limbo. He eventually accepted the fact that he might be stuck for the rest of his life and decided to work as a janitor at the airport to get a source of income.
Over the time, the airport workers believed that Mehran had found peace with his situation and had stopped his pursuit to leave. It was reported that he frequented the McDonalds there and spent his free time by reading books or observing other people who were going about their day at the airport.
As years went by, it all changed for Mehran when a French Human Rights lawyer, Christian Bourguet, attempted to help the airport resident find a way out of his situation. It took the lawyer almost 10 years to convince the authorities to present an official letter, which would permit Mehran to stay in France.
However, Mehran’s time at the airport for almost two decades messed up his mental state and he convinced himself that the letter was fake and decided that he was going to spend the rest of his life there. Eventually in 2016, the airport’s administration managed to kick him out of the airport before he was sent to a mental institution to be treated.
Mehran is currently living a normal life in England using the royalty money (USD$300,000) he received from Steven Spielberg, which was given as a token of appreciation for the copyright on his personal story.