The anti-travelman

Jim Whitehead ejw at
Fri Sep 19 20:56:44 PDT 2003

September 21, 2003
Waiting For Spielberg

Unlike most urban legends, the one about the Iranian exile stuck at the
Paris airport for 15 years is true. Surrounded by a mountain of his
possessions near the Paris Bye Bye lounge at Terminal 1 in Charles de Gaulle
International Airport, Merhan Karimi Nasseri is still there after all these
years -- a celebrity homeless person.


Early on in his saga, Nasseri maintained that he was expelled from his
homeland for antigovernment activity in 1977. According to a number of
reports, Nasseri protested against the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi
while a student in England, and when he returned to Iran, found himself
imprisoned, and shortly thereafter exiled.

He bounced around Europe for a few years with temporary refugee papers,
alighting finally in Belgium, where he was awarded official refugee status
in 1981. He traveled to Britain and France without difficulty until 1988,
when he landed at Charles de Gaulle airport after being denied entry into
Britain, because, he contends, his passport and refugee certificate were
stolen in a mugging on a Paris subway. Nasseri could not prove who he was,
nor offer proof of his refugee status. So he moved into the Zone d'attente,
a holding area for travelers without papers.

- Jim

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