A little boy who was desperately handed over to a soldier across an airport wall in the chaos of the sudden American evacuation of Afghanistan has been found and reunited with his relatives in Kabul.
The baby was found alone at Kabul airport by a 29-year-old taxi driver, Hamid Safi
Safi initially refused to return the boy, saying he and his wife also wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan
Eventually, with the involvement of the Taliban, the baby was reunited with his grandparents
The baby, Sohail Ahmadi, was just two months old when he disappeared on August 19, when thousands of people rushed to leave Afghanistan when it fell to the Taliban.
Following an exclusive Reuters story published in November with his photos, the baby was located in Kabul, where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi had found him at the airport and taken him home to raise him as his own.
After more than seven weeks of negotiations and prayers, and – ultimately – a brief detention by the Taliban police, Mr Safi finally handed the child back to his jubilant grandfather and other relatives who were still in Kabul on Saturday.
They said they would now seek to have him reunited with his parents and siblings, who were evacuated months to the United States.
How Sohail got lost
During the tumultuous Afghan evacuation over the summer, Mirza Ali Ahmadi – the boy’s father who had worked as a security guard at the US Embassy – and his wife, Suraya, feared that their son would be crushed in the crowd as they approached the airport gate. route to a flight to the United States.
Ahmadi told Reuters in early November that in his desperation that day, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier he thought was an American, and he fully expected that he would soon reach the remaining 5 meters to the entrance. to recapture. Hi m.
At that very moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back, and it would be another half hour before Mr Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children were able to enter.
At that time, the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ahmadi said he was desperately looking for his son inside the airport and was told by officials that he had probably 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 situation of many parents who are separated from their children during the hasty evacuation efforts and the withdrawal of US forces from the country after a 20-year war.
Without any US embassy in Afghanistan and international organizations overloaded, Afghan refugees have had trouble getting answers to the timing or the possibility of complex reunions like this.
The U.S. Department of Defense, State Department and Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
Alone at the airport
The same day that Mr Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Mr Safi had slipped through the gates of Kabul airport after giving a ride to his brother’s family, who were also to be evacuated.
He said he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. After saying that he unsuccessfully tried to find the baby’s parents inside, he decided to take the infant home to his wife and children.
Safi himself has three daughters and said his mother’s biggest wish before she died was that he should have a son.
Sir. Safi told Reuters he took him to the doctor for check-up after he was found and quickly incorporated 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 about the missing child came out, some of Safi’s neighbors – who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby – recognized the pictures and wrote 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 seek out Mr Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.
Razawi said he traveled two days and two nights to the capital with gifts – including a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and clothes – for Mr Safi and his family.
But Mr 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 to enter the United States.
The baby’s family sought help from the Red Cross, which has a stated mission to help connect people separated by international crises, but said they had received some information from the organization.
A spokesman for the Red Cross said they would not comment on individual cases.
Eventually, after feeling they had run out of opportunities, Mr Razawi contacted local Taliban police to report a kidnapping.
Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to police and said he took care of the baby, did not kidnap him.
The complaint was investigated and rejected, and the local police chief told Reuters that he helped arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed with thumbprints by both sides.
Sir. Razawi said the baby’s family eventually agreed to compensate Mr. Safi about $ 1,323 (100,000 Afghan) for expenses incurred to care for him for five months.
“With the agreement of both parties, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather,” he said Saturday.
In the presence of the police and during lots of tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.
Razawi said Mr Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail.
The baby’s parents told Reuters they were overjoyed when they could see with their own eyes the reunion over video chat.
“There are festivities, dancing, singing,” Mr Razawi said. “It’s actually like a wedding.”
Now, Mr Ahmadi and his wife and other children, who in early December were able to move from the military base and resettle in an apartment in Michigan, hope that Sohail will soon be brought to the United States.
“We have to get the child back to his mother and father. This is my sole responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he should return to them.