A young boy who was handed to a soldier in despair over an airport wall in the chaos of the US evacuation from Afghanistan was found Saturday and reunited with his relatives in Kabul.
The baby, Sohail Ahmadi, was just two months old when he went missing on August 19 as thousands of people rushed to leave Afghanistan when it fell into the hands of the Taliban.
After an exclusive Reuters story published with his photos in November, the baby was in Kabul, where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi found him at the airport and took him home to grow up as his own child. to bring.
After more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleadings, and eventually a brief detention by Taliban police, Safi finally returned the child to his acclaimed grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul.
They said they would now like to reunite him 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 father of the boy who had worked as a security guard at the US embassy – and his wife Suraya feared their son would be crushed in the crowd as they approached the airport gates. on his way to a flight to the United States.
In his desperation that day, Ahmadi told Reuters in early November that he handed Sohail the airport wall over to a uniformed soldier he believed to be American, with full expectation that he would soon make it the remaining 5 meters to the entrance of his reclaim.
Just then, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back and it would be another half hour before Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children could enter.
But by then the baby was nowhere to be seen.
Ahmadi said he was desperately searching for his son at the airport and was told by officials that he had likely been 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 highlights the plight of many parents separated from their children during the hasty evacuation efforts and withdrawal of US troops from the country after a 20-year war.
With no US embassy in Afghanistan and international organizations overloaded, Afghan refugees have struggled to get answers about the timing or possibility of complex reunions like this one.
The United States Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
ONLY AT THE AIRPORT
The same day Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi had slipped through the gates of Kabul airport after giving a lift to his brother’s family, who were also about to evacuate.
Safi said he found Sohail alone, lying on the floor crying. After saying he tried unsuccessfully to locate the baby’s parents inside, he decided to take the baby home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters of his own and said his mother’s greatest wish before she died was that he would have a son.
It was then that he decided: “I love this baby. If his family is found, I will give it 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 a checkup after he was found and quickly adopted the child into his family. They named the baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children together on his Facebook page.
After the Reuters story of 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 relatives still in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to find Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.
Razawi said he traveled to the capital for two days and two nights to bring gifts – including a slaughtered sheep, several kilograms of walnuts and clothing – for Safi and his family.
But Safi refused to release Sohail and insisted that he and his family be evacuated from Afghanistan as well. Safi’s brother, who was evacuated to California, said Safi and his family have no pending applications for entry into the US.
The baby’s family sought help from the Red Cross, which has a mission to reconnect people separated by international crises, but said they received little information from the organization. A spokesman for the Red Cross said it would not comment on individual cases.
Finally, after feeling they were out of options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping. Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to police, saying he was taking care of the baby and not kidnapping him.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police chief told Reuters that 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 about 100,000 Afghani ($950) for the expenses he incurred for 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 chief inspector of the local police station. “With the agreement of both parties, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather,” he said on Saturday.
In the presence of the police and under many tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.
Razawi said Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail. “Hamid and his wife were crying, I cried too, but assured them that you are both young, Allah will give you a male child. Not one, but several. I thanked them both for saving the child from the airport Razawi said.
The baby’s parents told Reuters they were overjoyed to see the reunion with their own eyes via video chat.
“There are celebrations, dancing, singing,” Razawi said. “It is indeed like a wedding.”
Now Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who were able to leave the military base in early December and resettle in a Michigan apartment, hope that Sohail will soon be taken to the United States.
“We have to take the baby back to its mother and father. This is my only responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he return to them.”
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)