Stranded in Moscow: Kurdish Family Moscow Airport

Published: October 29, 2015

Stranded in Moscow: Kurdish Family Moscow Airport, A Kurdish family that fled the Syrian civil war has landed in a bureaucratic purgatory: the Moscow airport.

Hassan Abdo Ahmed Mohammed, his wife and four children want to settle in Russia, but the government says their visas are fake. Returning home is out of the question because of the dangers there.

So the family set up camp inside Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and wait while their lawyer tries to untangle the red tape.

Their home for the last 50 days: A barren corner of the airport terminal overlooking the tarmac. Air mattresses are spread on the floor for napping. Suitcases have been pushed against the walls. They can’t cook, so UNICEF brings them food. They use airport restrooms.

With no doors to keep out passersby, they family stretched a cord to mark their space. A hand-written sign says, “Please don’t touch our thing (sic) becaus (sic) we are living here.”

The situation improved a little bit recently. The United Nations and a non-governmental organization convinced Russian authorities to let the family spend nights in a hotel located inside the airport terminal, Mohammed told CNN.

Spending days on a hard floor

“After 44 days of sleeping on the ground of the airport, in the cold, they decided to put us in a hotel,” he said. “The condition of the room is not great, and they put us in the smoking area.”

But they must spend their days on the the hard floor of the terminal, hearing every announcement on the blaring public address system and enduring the looks of travelers passing by.

It’s not a good place for the couple’s children: three boys, ages 8 to 13, and a 3-year-old daughter.

“We have not seen the sun for 49 days,” Mohammed said to CNN.

Conditions were so bad that Mohammed’s wife became sick and had to spend two weeks in a hospital, he said.

“We were not allowed to see her, even her kids,” he said. “She is back now, but she still does not feel well.”

Family has relatives in Russia

The situation sounds like a not-so-amusing spinoff of Steven Spielberg’s 2004 movie “The Terminal,” about a man from Eastern Europe who becomes stuck at JFK International Airport in New York because a revolution in his home country rendered his passport invalid.

A similar, real-life situation happened when Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker who fled the United States, spent more than a month living in the Moscow Airport before being granted asylum.

Mohammed and his family are Syrian Kurds who fled a civil war that has left 300,000 people dead and forced 10 million people from their homes.

While thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and other Mideast nations flowed into Europe, Mohammed and his family headed for Russia. He said they chose that country because his wife’s sister and cousin live there.

After leaving Syria, they ended up in Ibril, a Kurdish city in north Iraq. They applied for visas to Russia and flew to Istanbul and then to Moscow. That’s when their forward progress came to a halt.


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