Afghanistan: Baby missing in airlift chaos found and returned to family

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Baby Sohail Ahmadi was just two months old when she disappeared on August 19, as thousands rushed to leave Afghanistan as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

Following an exclusive Reuters report published with his photo in November, the baby was found in Kabul by a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi at the airport and brought him home to raise him.

After more than seven weeks of negotiation and pleading, and a brief detention by Taliban police, Safi finally returned the child to his elated grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul.
They said they will now seek to reunite him with his parents and siblings who were evacuated to the United States a few months ago.
The boy’s father, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, a former security guard at the U.S. embassy, ​​and his wife Suraya feared their son would be crowded as they approached the airport gate amid the turbulent evacuation of Afghanistan’s summer. in the crowd. Routes to the United States.

Ahmadi told Reuters in early November that in desperation he handed Sohail over the airport wall that day to a uniformed soldier who he believed was an American and fully expected him to be there soon. You will reach the remaining 5 meters (15 feet) of the airport entrance. take him back.

The British Armed Forces, in partnership with the US military, will evacuate eligible civilians and their families from Kabul, Afghanistan in August 2021.

That’s when Taliban forces pushed the crowd away, and it took another half hour before Ahmadi, his wife and four other children were allowed in.

But by then, the baby was nowhere to be found.

Ahmadi said he was desperately searching for his son inside the airport, and officials told him he may have been taken out of the country alone and could be reunited with them later.

The rest of the family was evacuated – eventually to a military base in Texas. For months, they didn’t know where their son was.
The case underscores the plight of many parents separated from their children during a hasty evacuation after 20 years of war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
Without the overstretched U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and international organizations, Afghan refugees struggle to get answers about the timing or possibility of a complex unification like this.

The Departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

alone at the airport

On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from their children, Safi slipped through the gates of Kabul airport after carrying off his brother’s family, who were also preparing to evacuate.

Safi said he found Sohail crying on the ground alone. After he said his attempts to find the baby’s parents inside were unsuccessful, he decided to take the baby home to his wife and children. Safi, who has three daughters of his own, said his mother’s greatest wish before her death was for him to have a son.

At that moment, he decided: “I want to keep this child. If I find his family, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself,” he told Reuters in an interview in late November. .

Safi told Reuters that after he was discovered, he took him to a doctor for a checkup and quickly incorporated the child into his family. They called baby Mohammad Abed and posted pictures of all the children on his Facebook page.
The pilot fled Afghanistan as a child.Now he's bringing hope to Afghan refugees to America

After the Reuters report on the missing children came to light, some of Safi’s neighbors – who noticed him returning from the airport with the baby a few months ago – recognized the photos and posted about him in a translated version of the article Falling comments.

Ahmadi asked relatives still in Afghanistan, including his 67-year-old father-in-law, Mohammad Qasem Razawi, who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to find Safi, and asked him to take his claim. Haier gave it back to the family.

Razavi said he spent two days and nights in the capital bringing gifts for Safi and his family — including a slaughtered sheep, pounds of walnuts and clothes.

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 had no pending U.S. entry applications.
The baby’s family turned to the Red Cross, whose mission is to help reconnect people separated by the international crisis, but said they had received little information from the group. A spokesman for the Red Cross said it did not comment on individual cases.

Finally, after feeling they had no choice, Razavi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping. Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to police and said he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.

She was sold to a stranger so her family could eat as Afghanistan collapsed

The complaint was investigated and dismissed, and the local police commander told Reuters he helped arrange the settlement, which included a fingerprinted agreement signed by both parties. Razavi said the baby’s family eventually agreed to compensate Safi about 100,000 afghanis ($950) to cover the cost of caring for him for five months.

“The baby’s grandfather complained to us, we found Hamid, and based on the evidence we had, we recognized the baby,” said Hamid Marang, chief area controller at the local police station. “With mutual consent, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather,” he said Saturday.

In the presence of police, and in tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.

Razavi said Safi and his family were devastated by the loss of Sohail. “Hamid and his wife were crying and I was crying too, but assured them that you are all young and Allah will give you boys. Not one, but several. I thank both of them for saving the children from the airport, ‘ said Razavi.

The baby’s parents told Reuters they were overjoyed that they were able to see the reunion in person over a video chat.

“There are celebrations, dancing, singing,” Razavi said. “It’s almost like a wedding.”

Now that Ahmadi and his wife and other children were able to move out of the military base and resettled in an apartment in Michigan in early December, they hope Sohail will soon be brought to the United States.

“We need to return the baby to his parents. That’s my only responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he should come back to them.”

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