In the chaos of the American evacuation of Afghanistan, a baby was handed in desperation to a soldier across an airport wall. He was found and reunited with his relatives in Kabul on Saturday.
Sohail Ahmadi, the baby, was just two months old when he vanished on Aug. 19 as tens of thousands of people fled Afghanistan as it fell to the Taliban.
The baby was found in Kabul, where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi had found him in the airport and taken him home to raise as his own, according to an exclusive Reuters storey published in November with his pictures.
Safi finally handed the child back to his ecstatic grandfather and other relatives in Kabul after more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleas, including a brief detention by Taliban police.
They said they would now try to reunite him with his parents and siblings, who were evacuated to the United States months ago.
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 approached the airport gates en route to a flight to the United States during the tumultuous Afghan evacuation over the summer.
In early November, Ahmadi told Reuters that in his desperation, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier he thought was an American, fully expecting him to make it the remaining 5 metres (15 feet) to the entrance to reclaim him.
At that precise moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back, and Ahmadi, his wife, and their four other children would have to wait another half hour to get inside.
Inside the airport, Ahmadi said he searched desperately for his son and was told by officials that he had been taken out of the country separately and would be reunited with them later.
The rest of the family was evacuated and ended up at a Texas military base. They had no idea where their son was for months.
The case highlights the plight of many parents who were separated from their children during the hasty evacuation effort and withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after a 20-year war.
Afghan refugees have had difficulty getting answers on the timing, or even the possibility, of complex reunifications like this one because the United States has no embassy in Afghanistan and international organisations are overburdened.
Requests for comment to the US Department of Defense, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security were not returned on Saturday.
On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi slipped through the Kabul airport gates after picking up his brother’s family, who were also planning to evacuate.
Sohail was alone and crying on the ground, according to Safi. He decided to take the baby home to his wife and children after attempting unsuccessfully to locate the baby’s parents inside. Safi is the father of three daughters and claims that his mother’s greatest wish before she died was for him to have a son.
He made the following decision at that time: “I’m going to keep this child. If his family can be located, I will return him to them. If not, I’ll raise him on my own “In a late November interview with Reuters, he said.
After he was discovered, Safi took him to the doctor for a check-up and quickly adopted him into his family, according to Reuters. They named the baby Mohammad Abed and shared photos of the entire family on his Facebook page.
Following the publication of the Reuters storey about the missing child, some of Safi’s neighbours, who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby, recognised the photos and left comments on a translated version of the article about his whereabouts.
Ahmadi asked his Afghan relatives, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, who lives in Badakhshan’s northeastern province, to find Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.
Razawi claimed he travelled to the capital for two days and two nights, bringing gifts for Safi and his family, including a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts, and clothing.
Safi, on the other hand, refused to release Sohail, insisting that he, too, wanted to leave Afghanistan with his family. Safi and his family have no pending applications for entry into the United States, according to Safi’s brother, who was evacuated to California.
The baby’s family sought assistance from the Red Cross, which has a stated mission of reuniting people separated by international crises, but said the organisation provided them with little information. The Red Cross, according to a spokesperson, does not comment on individual cases.
After exhausting all other options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police station to report a kidnapping. According to Reuters, Safi told the police that he denied the allegations and that he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police commander told Reuters that he assisted in the settlement, which included both parties signing an agreement with thumbprints. According to Razawi, the baby’s family eventually agreed to pay Safi around 100,000 Afghani ($950) to cover the costs of caring for him for five months.
“The baby’s grandfather complained to us, and we found Hamid, and based on the evidence we had, we recognised the baby,” said Hamid Malang, the local police station’s chief area controller. “The baby will be handed over to his grandfather with both sides in agreement,” he said on Saturday.
The baby was finally returned to his relatives in the presence of the police and many tears.
Safi and his family, according to Razawi, were devastated by Sohail’s death. “Hamid and his wife were crying, and I was crying as well, but I reassured them that because they were both young, Allah would provide them with a male child. There are several of them. I expressed my gratitude to both of them for rescuing the child from the airport “Razawi explained.
The baby’s parents told Reuters that they were overjoyed because they were able to see the reunion over video chat with their own eyes.
“There are celebrations, dancing, and singing,” Razawi explained. “It’s exactly like a wedding.”
Now, Ahmadi, his wife, and their other children, who were able to move off the military base and into an apartment in Michigan in early December, are hoping that Sohail will be brought to the United States soon.
“We must return the child to his mother and father. This is the only thing I’m accountable for “His grandfather expressed himself. “I’d like for him to come back to them.”
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