Images of countless families fleeing from the Taliban dominated the media for months but out of the hundreds of horror stories from Kabul Airport of people clinging to U.S. aircraft to bombings, one stands out.
An image of a family passing their baby to U.S. military in the hopes of securing his safety captured the gravity of the situation in Kabul.
But the image was only the first scene in a long, complex story of a taxi cab driver who, in the wake of the disastrous evacuation found a lone, crying baby boy that had seemingly been left behind.
The baby who was passed to a U.S. soldier has finally been reunited with his family.
Sohail Ahmadi was two months old at the time of the evacuation and his family was one of many that were desperate to get into the airport and to escape the country on one of the last flights out of Afghanistan.
After 20 years of fighting and Western military presence in the region, the United States was abandoning its last few positions and leaving the country to its own devices.
The government of Afghanistan was ill-prepared for what came next and immediately collapsed under the returning pressure of the Taliban. This conflict and its conclusion will be the subject of debate for decades in political, military and historical arenas.
What is not up for debate, is the plight of the Afghan people during and following the U.S. withdrawal from the region.
There are undoubtedly many families just like Sohail Ahmadi’s that were forced to make terrible decisions and lived in terrible fear of the reprisal that returning Taliban might bring.
On the 19th of August, 2021, Sohail Ahamdi’s parents were forced to make their own impossible decision. Mirza Ali Ahmadi, Sohail’s father had worked as a security guard at the U.S. embassy and feared that his connection to the United States would cost him and his family dearly under the Taliban.
While trying to enter the airport, Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Suraya Ahmadi feared getting crushed by the crowd of panicked Afghans seeking entry into the airport.
The Ahmadis were forced to make an impossible decision.
In order to protect their youngest child, Mirza Ali and Suraya Ahmadi handed their child over the fence to an American soldier.
Eventually, the Mirza Ali Ahmadi, Suraya and their four other children made it into the airport where they searched fruitlessly for their missing child. They were unable to find Sohail in time and in order to protect the rest of their children, the Ahmadi’s were forced to make a terrible choice.
They boarded a flight bound and Sohail Ahamdi was left behind.
For months, the Ahmadis had no idea where their youngest child was, or if he was safe.
While the family settled in Michigan, they were left to wonder as to the fate of their son for months. That is until a family photo of an Afghan family appeared on Facebook.
29-year-old Afghan taxi driver Hamid Safi said he found Sohail alone and crying at the airport, left behind during the chaotic evacuation.
After being unable to find Sohail’s family, Hamid Safi made the decision to take the boy home and to raise him as his own, alongside the rest of his children.
Through the Facebook post made by Safi, Sohail was identified and Sohail’s grandfather, who was still in Afghanistan, asked to take him until arrangements could be made to reunite the boy with his parents.
Reportedly, Hamid Safi was reluctant hand Sohail over after having found him, seemingly abandoned at the airport. He also wanted his own family to have the opportunity to be relocated to the U.S.
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Sohail has been reunited with his grandfather.
After negotiations even the brief detainment of Hamid Safi, Sohail was returned to his grandfather to much joy and fanfare as his family in the United States watched over a video call.
Now that Sohail has been located, the next step is for Sohail to be reunited with his parents and siblings in America.
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Dan O’Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.