A little boy in the chaos of the American desperately handed over to a soldier over an airport wall evacuation of Afghanistan was found and reunited with his family members.
The baby, Sohail Ahmadi, was just two months old when he went missing on August 19 when thousands of people rushed to leave Afghanistan when it fell into the hands of the Taliban.
The baby is located in Kabul where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi picked him up at the airport and took him home to raise him as his own.
After more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleas, and finally a brief detention by the Taliban police, Safi finally returned the child on Saturday to his jubilant grandfather and other family members still in Kabul.
They said they would now try to get him reunited with his parents and siblings who had been evacuated to the United States months ago.
During the tumultuous Afghan evacuation over the summer, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, the boy’s father who worked as a security guard at the US embassy, and his wife Suraya feared their son would be crushed in the crowd as they stormed the airport gates on their way to a flight to the USA.
Ahmadi told Reuters news agency in early November that in his desperation that day, he handed Sohail the airport wall to a soldier in uniform who he believed was an American, with full expectation that he would soon reach the remaining five meters to the entrance would make to claim back. him.
Just at that moment, the Taliban forces pushed the crowd back and it would take another half hour before Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children could enter.
But by that time, the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ahmadi said he was desperately looking for his son at the airport and was told by officials that he was probably taken out of the country separately and could be reunited with them later.
The rest of the family was evacuated and eventually ended up at a military base in Texas. For months, they had no idea where their son was.
The case emphasizes the fate of many parents separated from their children during the hasty evacuation attempt and withdrawal of American forces from the country after a 20-year war.
With no U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and international organizations overstretched, Afghan refugees have had difficulty finding answers about the timing, or possibility, of complex reunions like these.
“We are working to reunite the family,” a State Department official said.
However, the timing is still unknown, a second U.S. official said with knowledge of the situation, as regular evacuation flights are not currently leaving the country.
The U.S. government is in talks with Qataris as well as parties in Afghanistan over the matter, the second official said.
Alone at the airport
On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi slipped through the Kabul airport gates after giving a ride-sharing opportunity to his brother’s family who would also evacuate.
Safi said he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground.
After saying he tried unsuccessfully to locate the baby’s parents inside, he took the baby home to his wife and children.
Safi has three daughters of his own and said his mother’s biggest wish before his death was that he would have a son.
At that moment he decided: “I love this baby. If his family is found, I’ll give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself, “he told Reuters in an interview in late November.
Safi told Reuters he took him to the doctor for an examination after he was found and quickly picked up the child from his family.
They named the baby Mohammad Abed and posted photos of all the children together on his Facebook page.
After the Reuters story about the missing child came out, some of Safi’s neighbors – who had noticed his return from the airport with a baby months earlier – recognized the photos and posted comments about his whereabouts on a translated version of the article .
Ahmadi asked his family members who are still in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi (67), who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to seek out Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.
Razawi said he traveled to the capital for two days and two nights with gifts – including a slaughtered sheep, a few pounds of walnuts and clothes – for Safi and his family.
But Safi refused to release Sohail, insisting he also wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan with his family.
Safi’s brother, who was evacuated to California, said Safi and his family have no pending applications for access to the US.
The baby’s family sought help from the Red Cross, which has a stated mission to help people separated from international crises, but said they had received little information from the organization.
A Red Cross spokesman said he did not comment on individual cases.
Finally, after feeling that they had no options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping.
Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to police and said he cared for the baby, not to kidnap him.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed and the local police commander told Reuters he had helped arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed by both sides with thumbprints.
Razawi said the baby’s family eventually agreed to reimburse Safi some 100,000 Afghani ($ 950) for expenses incurred to look after him for five months.
“The baby’s grandfather complained to us and we found Hamid and based on the evidence we had, we recognized the baby,” said Hamid Malang, the area police chief.
“With both sides in agreement, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather,” he said Saturday.
In the presence of the police, and in the midst of many tears, the baby was finally returned to his family members.
Razawi said Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail.
“Hamid and his wife wept, I wept too, but assured them that you are both young, Allah will give you a son. Not one, but several. I thanked both of them for being the child of saved the airport, ”Razawi said.
“We have to get the baby back to his mother and father. It is my only responsibility, “he said.
The baby’s parents told Reuters they were delighted to see the reunion over video chat with their own eyes.
“There are celebrations, dancing, singing,” Razawi said. “It’s just like a wedding.”
Now Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who were able to pull out of the military base in early December and relocate to an apartment in Michigan, are still finding their feet and focusing on their son’s return.
“I was so sad and always cried for my baby,” said his mother Suraya. “Now I hope he arrives here safely. Last night I did not sleep due to luck. “