Iranian exile who inspired ‘Le Terminal’ dies at French airport

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived for 18 years at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, died of a heart attack at terminal 2F, authorities said.

In this file photo taken August 12, 2004, Mehran Karimi Nasseri walks past the poster of the film inspired by his life, in Terminal 1 of Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.
(AFP archive)

An Iranian man who was stuck for 18 years at a Paris airport, inspiring a Steven Spielberg film starring Tom Hanks, has died at the terminal, an airport official has said.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri died of natural causes just before noon on Saturday in terminal 2F of Charles de Gaulle airport outside the French capital, the official told AFP news agency.

Initially caught in an immigration trap unable to enter France and having nowhere to go – he became dependent on his unusual place of residence and became a national and international cause celebre.

He calls himself “Sir Alfred”, and a small section of airport flooring and a plastic bench become his domain.

The singular story of Karimi Nasseri caught the eye of Hollywood director Spielberg, inspiring the 2004 film ‘The Terminal’, starring Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Hanks played the role of a man who finds himself trapped at JFK airport in New York when his home country collapses in revolution.

After spending most of the money he received for the film, Karimi Nasseri returned to the airport a few weeks ago, the official said.

Several thousand euros were found on him.

Merhan Karimi Nasseri sits among his belongings in Terminal 1 at Roissy Charles De Gaulle airport, north of Paris, August 11, 2004.

Merhan Karimi Nasseri sits among his belongings in Terminal 1 at Roissy Charles De Gaulle airport, north of Paris, August 11, 2004.
(AP Archive)

He is afraid to leave

Born in 1945 in Masjed Soleiman, in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, Karimi Nasseri moved to the airport in November 1988 after taking a flight from Iran to London, Berlin and Amsterdam in an attempt to find his mother.

He had been expelled from all the other countries he had landed in because he had been unable to produce the required documents.

At Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, an informal support network grew up around him, providing food and medical aid, as well as books and a radio.

In this file photo taken on August 12, 2004, Mehran Karimi Nasseri shaves, early in the morning, in terminal 1 of Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.

In this file photo taken August 12, 2004, Mehran Karimi Nasseri shaves, early in the morning, in Terminal 1 of Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.
(AFP archive)

In 1999, he obtained refugee status and the right to stay in France.

“I don’t really know what I want to do, stay in Roissy or leave,” he said after obtaining the right to live in France. “I have papers, I can stay here, I think I have to study all the options carefully before making a decision.”

He didn’t leave then.

“He no longer wants to leave the airport,” said his lawyer Christian Bourguet at the time. “He is afraid to go there”.

Source: AFP

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