Sohail Ahmadi was only two months old when he was separated from the family on August 19, when thousands flocked to try to leave Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban.
Following an exclusive report published by “Reuters” in November with photos of the missing child, he was located in Kabul, where he was found by a taxi driver named Hamed Safi (29 years old) at the airport and taken to his home to raise him.
After more than seven weeks of negotiations and pleas, and even the Taliban police’s arrest of Safi for a short period, the taxi driver finally agreed to return the child to his grandfather and relatives, who are still in Kabul, to great joy.
The child’s parents said that they would now work for him to be reunited with his parents and siblings, who were evacuated months ago to the United States.
During the turmoil that accompanied the evacuation from Afghanistan over the summer, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, the father of the child who worked as a security guard at the American embassy, and his wife, Soraya, feared that their son would be crushed in the crowds as they approached the airport gates on their way to board a plane bound for the United States.
Out of desperation that day, Ahmadi told Reuters, in early November, he handed Sohail through the airport fence, he believed, to a US soldier, fully expecting that he would be able to cross the remaining five meters to the gate to retrieve him.
At that moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back for another half an hour before Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children could enter.
But they found no trace of the infant.
Ahmadi said he desperately searched for his son at the airport, and officials suggested to him that he had already been taken out of the country on a separate flight, and that he might join the family later.
The rest of the family was evacuated and eventually ended up at a military base in Texas, and months passed without the family knowing anything about their son’s fate.
This case highlights the plight of many parents separated from their children during the chaos of the urgent evacuation and the withdrawal of US forces from the country after a 20-year war.
Due to the absence of a US embassy in Afghanistan and the high pressure on international organizations, Afghan refugees faced difficulty in obtaining answers to their questions about the timing or possibility of reunification with their family members.
The US Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment for this report on Saturday.
Alone at the airport
On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from the infant, driver Safi slipped through the gates of Kabul Airport after dropping off his brother’s family, which was also due to be evacuated.
Safi said he found Sohail crying alone on the ground, and after he failed to find his parents inside the airport, he decided to take him home to his wife and children.
Safi has 3 daughters, and he said that his mother’s greatest wishes before her death were to have a boy.
He told Reuters in an interview in late November that he decided at that moment to “keep this baby. If his family appears, I will give it to them. If he does not appear, I will raise him.”
Safi added that he took the baby to the doctor for examination after finding it, and soon the baby became a member of the family.
The family named the child Muhammad Abed, and posted his photos with her children’s photos on a Facebook page.
After the publication of the Reuters report on the missing child, some of Safi’s neighbors, who noticed his return from the airport months ago with a baby, recognized the photos and posted comments about his whereabouts on a translated copy of the report.
Ahmadi asked his relatives residing in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law, Muhammad Qasim Razavi, 67, who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to search for Safi and demand that the child be returned to the family.
Razavi said that he traveled for two days to the capital, bringing gifts, including a slaughtered lamb, several kilograms of nuts, and some clothes for Safi and his family.
But Safi refused to abandon Sohail, insisting that he also wanted to evacuate him and his family from Afghanistan.
But Safi’s brother, who was evacuated to California, said Safi and his family had not applied to enter the United States.
The baby’s family requested the help of the Red Cross, whose goals include the reunification of their international crisis team, but said that they had received little information from him, and a spokesman for the Red Cross said that the organization does not comment on individual cases.
Finally, feeling that all options had run out, Razavi called the local Taliban police to report the kidnapping of the child.
Safi told Reuters that he denied the accusations in his statements to the police, and that he is looking after the child and has not kidnapped him.
Police investigated the report, and the local police chief told Reuters he helped arrange a settlement that included an agreement signed by both parties with fingerprints.
Razavi said the child’s family eventually agreed to net compensation of around 100,000 Afghanis ($950) for expenses he spent looking after the child over the course of five months.
In the presence of the police and amidst the tears, the child finally returned on Saturday to his relatives.
Razavi said that Safi and his family grieved greatly for the separation of Sohail, and added: “Hamid Safi and his wife were crying. I cried too. But I reassured them, saying that you are young and God will give you a child. Not just one, but a number of children. I thanked them for saving the child from the airport.”
The baby’s parents told Reuters that they were overjoyed when we were able to see him and watch the family’s reunion via a video call.
Now Ahmadi, his wife and their children hope that Sohail will soon be transferred to live with them in the United States, after they were able in early December to move from the military base to an apartment in Michigan.
Leave a Reply