Missing Afghan baby reunited with family after being found with taxi driver

·4-min read
Hamid Safi cries as he hands over Sohail to his grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS
Hamid Safi cries as he hands over Sohail to his grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS

An Afghan baby who was lost amid the chaos of the frantic evacuation at Kabul airport last summer is set to be reunited with his parents after a taxi driver who had adopted the months-old child finally gave him back.

Sohail Ahmadi was just two months old when his father passed him to a soldier - who he believed to be American - to protect him from the crush of people desperately trying to escape as the Taliban took over the capital in August.

Mirza Ali Ahmadi assumed he would get through shortly afterwards, but in the end it took half an hour for the family to make it through the crowds, according to Reuters, which broke the story.

But when they got into the airport compound, Sohail was lost.

Baby Sohail Ahmadi sits inside the house of Hamid Safi in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS
Baby Sohail Ahmadi sits inside the house of Hamid Safi in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS

Mr Ahmadi, who worked at the US embassy, said he searched desperately for his son inside the airport and was told by officials that he had likely been taken out of the country separately and would be reunited with them later.

Sohail’s parents Mirza and Suraya were evacuated to an Afghan refugee camp at Fort Bliss military base in Texas with their four other children, and for months they worried about what had happened to him.

Little did they know that he had been found by a taxi driver and taken home.

Hamid Safi, 29, said he found two-month old Sohail alone and crying on the floor. He reportedly looked for the child’s parents before deciding to take him home and raise him as his own, according to Reuters.

NGOs and US government agencies reportedly hit dead ends with their search for the child for months.

He was not only the infant in the same predicament. Videos from the chaos at the airport showed one infant girl being thrown over an airport wall towards American soldiers as her parents tried to save her life.

She was reportedly soon reunited with her family, but for some it took much longer.

In November the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that approximately 1,300 children had been taken to the United States from Afghanistan without their parents or legal guardians during the hasty and chaotic evacuations.

Many of the children were thought to have been unintentionally separated from their parents at Kabul airport, creating a complicated tangle for reunification with many separated by thousands of miles.

In the case of Sohail, the breakthrough only happened late last year after a Reuters story led Mr Safi’s neighbours to recognise the child and alert the family to his whereabouts by posting comments on Facebook.

His maternal grandfather, Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, travelled two days and two nights from Badakshan province to Kabul to fetch him, bringing with him a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and clothing as a thank you gift for the Safi family.

Sohail became part of the Safi family - ALI KHARA /REUTERS
Sohail became part of the Safi family - ALI KHARA /REUTERS

However, Mr Safi, who has three daughters and reportedly wanted a son, was reluctant to give Sohail back. Family photos on Mr Safi’s Facebook page show Sohail - who they renamed as Mohammad Abed - being treated as one of their own, including one in which the toddler is hugging one of Mr Safi's daughters.

In return for handing over what he considered to be the newest member of his family, Mr Safi wanted one thing that Mr Rawazi could not give: for him and his family to also be evacuated from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Mr Safi's brother, who was evacuated to California, has since said Mr Safi and his family have no pending applications for US entry.

Eventually, the local Taliban police reached a settlement between the two families after Sohail’s grandfather reported the incident as a kidnapping.

Safi holds Sohail next to Sohail's grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi and a Taliban representative in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS
Safi holds Sohail next to Sohail's grandfather Mohammad Qasem Razawi and a Taliban representative in Kabul - ALI KHARA /REUTERS

But it took weeks of negotiations and a brief detention by Taliban police before Sohail would be reunited with members of his biological family in Afghanistan.

The Safi family were eventually compensated 100,000 Afghani (£700) for taking care of the infant for almost five months, but appeared heartbroken to return Sohail back to his family.

Baby Sohail Ahmadi being carried by his grandmother - ALI KHARA /REUTERS
Baby Sohail Ahmadi being carried by his grandmother - ALI KHARA /REUTERS

"Hamid [Safi] 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 grandfather Mr Razawi told Reuters.

The US government is now reportedly working on getting the young child to the US to be with his family, who have recently moved to Michigan.

"We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility," Mr Razawi said. "My wish is that he should return to them."

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