The missing Afghan baby returns to his family after a journey of suffering

A baby was reunited with his relatives in Kabul on Saturday after he was found missing when his father handed him over to a soldier through the airport fence amid the chaos of the US evacuation from Afghanistan.

Sohail Ahmadi was just two months old when he was separated from his family on August 19, when thousands flocked to try to flee Afghanistan after he fell into the hands of the Taliban.

Following an exclusive report published by Reuters in November with photos of the missing child, he was found in Kabul, where he was found by a taxi driver named Hamed Safi, 29, at the airport and sent home to raise him.

After more than seven weeks of negotiations and prayers, and even Safi’s brief arrest by Taliban police, the taxi driver finally agreed to return the child to his grandfather and relatives still in Kabul with great joy.

The boy’s parents said they will now work to reunite him with his parents and siblings who were evacuated months ago to the United States.

During the riots that accompanied the evacuation from Afghanistan during the summer, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, the father of the child who worked as a security guard at the US embassy, ​​and his wife Soraya feared that their son would be crushed in the crowd. they approached the airport gates en route to board a plane bound for the United States.

In early November, Ahmadi told Reuters that out of desperation that day, he handed Sohail through the airport fence to a U.S. soldier in what he believed was the full hope that he would be able to cross the remaining five meters by at the gate to get it. .

At that moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd for another half hour before Ahmadi, his wife and four other children could enter.

But they found no trace of the baby.

Ahmadi said he desperately looked for his son at the airport and officials suggested he had already been flown abroad on a special flight and could join the family later.

The rest of the family was evacuated and eventually ended up at a military base in Texas. Months passed without the family knowing about their son’s fate.

This case highlights the plight of many parents separated from their children during the chaos of the emergency evacuation process and the withdrawal of US forces from the country after a 20-year war.

Due to the lack of a US embassy in Afghanistan and the intense pressure on international organizations, Afghan refugees faced difficulties in obtaining answers to their questions about the timing or possibility of reuniting with their family members.

The U.S. Department of Defense, State and National Security did not respond to requests for comment on the report Saturday.

Only at the airport

On the same day that Ahmadi and his family were separated from the baby, driver Safi slipped through the gates of Kabul airport after leaving his brother’s family, which was also scheduled to be evacuated.

Safi said he found Sohail crying only on the floor. After failing to find the child’s parents inside the airport, he decided to take him home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters and said his mother’s greatest wish before his death was to have a son.

Safi told Reuters, in an interview, in late November, that at that moment he decided, “I will take care of this baby. If his family shows up, I will give it to them. If he does not show up., I I will increase it. “

Safi told Reuters he took the child to a doctor for examination after it was found and the child quickly became a family member.

The family named the child Muhammad Abed and posted photos of him with photos of their children on a Facebook page.

Following the publication of the Reuters report on the missing child, some of Safit’s neighbors, who noticed his return from the airport months ago with a baby, were introduced to the photos and posted comments about his whereabouts in a translated copy of report.

Ahmadi asked his relatives living in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law, Muhammad Qasim Razavi, 67, who lives in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, to look for Safi and demand that the child be returned to the family.

Razavi said he traveled for two days and two nights to the capital, bringing gifts including a slaughtered sheep, several kilograms of nuts and some clothes for Safi and his family.

But Safi refused to leave Sohail, insisting he also wanted to evacuate him and his family from Afghanistan. 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 sought help from the Red Cross, whose goals include reunification from their international crisis team, but said they had received little information from them. A Red Cross spokesman said the organization did not comment on individual cases.

Finally, feeling that all options were over, Razavi called on local Taliban police to report the abduction of the child. Safi told Reuters that he denied the allegations in his statements to police and that he was caring for the child and had not abducted him.

Police investigated the report and the local police chief told Reuters that he helped arrange a settlement that included an agreement signed by both parties with fingerprints.

Razavi said the child’s family eventually agreed to compensate 100,000 afghanis net ($ 950) for the expenses he spent caring for the child over the five months.

In the presence of the police and amid tears, the child finally returned to his relatives on Saturday.

Razavi said Safi and his family were deeply saddened by Sohail’s separation. He added: “Hamed and his wife were crying. I cried too. But I reassured them that you are small and God will give you a child. Not just one, but a number of children. I thank them for rescuing him. the child from the airport “.

The baby’s parents told Reuters they were very happy when they could see him and watch the family reunion through a video call.

Now Ahmadi, his wife and their children hope Sohail will soon be transferred to live with them in the United States, as they were able to move from the military base in early December to live in an apartment in Michigan .

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