Baby lost in Afghanistan airlift found and returned to family

The baby was reunited with his relatives on Sunday

Eleanor Sly
Sunday 09 January 2022 16:21
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<p>Hamid Safi cries as he hands over Sohail to his grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi in Kabul</p>

Hamid Safi cries as he hands over Sohail to his grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi in Kabul

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A baby boy who was lost in the chaos of the American evacuation of Afghanistan has been found and was reunited with his relatives in Kabul on Sunday.

Sohail Ahmadi was passed over an airport wall to a soldier by his parents Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Suraya, on 19 August as thousands rushed to leave Afghanistan as the Taliban took control.

The infant was just two months old at the time and was not reunited with his parents as intended, he was instead taken home by a 29-year-old taxi driver, Hamid Safi, who found him at the airport and took him to raise as his own.

After the baby’s location was discovered, and following over seven weeks of negotiations between Sohail’s family and Mr Safi (and a brief detention by Taliban police) the child was finally reunited with his grandfather and other relatives who are still in Kabul.

The family have now said that they hope to have him reunited with his parents and four older siblings who were evacuated to the United States.

Mr Ahmadi, the boy’s father, had worked as a security guard at the US embassy and fearing that his son would get crushed in the crowd as they neared the gates to the airport, passed the boy to someone who he believed to be an American soldier.

The family said they were fully expecting that they would soon make it the remaining 5 metres (15ft) to the entrance of the airport, en route to their flight to the US, to reclaim him.

However, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back, meaning it took half an hour for Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children to get inside, by which time the baby had vanished.

Mr Ahmadi told Reuters that he searched desperately for his son inside the airport, with officials suggesting that the baby had likely been taken out of the country separately and would be reunited with them later.

The rest of the family was evacuated to Texas and for months they had no idea where their son was.

Meanwhile, as Mr Ahmadi and his family made their way to their evacuation flight, Mr Safi arrived at Kabul airport having given his brother’s family a lift there.

Mr Safi said he found Sohail alone and crying. He said that he had unsuccessfully tried to locate the baby’s parents inside and so decided to take the baby home to his wife and children.

In an interview with Reuters he explained that at that moment he had thought: “I am keeping this baby. If his family is found, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself.”

Mr Safi told Reuters that he took him to the doctor for a check-up before he quickly incorporated the baby into his family. They named the baby Mohammad Abed.

When the news of the missing child came out in November, some of Mr Safi’s neighbours recognised the photos of the baby and posted comments about his whereabouts on a version of the article.

Mr Ahmadi asked his relatives who were still in Afghanistan to locate Mr Safi and ask him to return the baby Sohail to the family.

Mr Ahmadi’s father-in-law, Mohammad Qasem Razawi said that he traveled two days and two nights to the capital bearing gifts for Mr Safi and his family, in an attempt to rescue the baby. These included a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and some clothing.

However, Mr Safi refused to release Sohail.

The baby’s family went on to ask for help from the Red Cross but revealed they received little information from the organisation.

Mr Razawi finally contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping.

Mr Safi denied the allegations to the police and, saying that he was caring for the baby and had not kidnapped him, Reuters reported.

The complaint was investigated and dismissed and a settlement was afreed. Mr Razawi said the baby’s family agreed to compensate Mr Safi around 100,000 Afghani ($950) for the cost of having looked after the baby for five months.

"The grandfather of the baby complained to us and we found Hamid and based on the evidence we had, we recognised the baby," said Hamid Malang, the chief area controller of the local police station.

"With both sides in agreement, the baby will be handed over to his grandfather," he said on Saturday.

The baby was finally returned to his relatives in the presence of police on Sunday.

Mr Razawi said that Mr Safi and his family were very upset at losing Sohail.

He explained: "Hamid and his wife were crying, I cried too, but assured them that you both are young, Allah will give you male child. Not one, but several. I thanked both of them for saving the child from the airport.”

The baby’s parents said that they were overjoyed as they watched the reunion take place via video chat.

"There are celebrations, dance, singing," said Mr Razawi. "It is just like a wedding indeed."

He added: "We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility.

"My wish is that he should return to them."

This case is just one of many, with over one thousand children separated from their parents during the hasty evacuation effort from Afghanistan.

Without a US embassy in Afghanistan, and following the rapid withdrawal of US forces from the country, Afghan refugees face huge uncertainty about the possibility of reunifications such as this one.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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