On Aug. 19, Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Suraya, along with their five children were on their desperate bid to leave Afghanistan, standing in a turbulent crowd outside the Kabul airport’ gates.
For fear of the two-month-old baby’s safety, the couple made a blink-of-an-eye decision to pass their baby Sohail over the tall fence to a U.S. soldier, who offered them help. Ali and Suraya believed they would reunite with her little son soon because the entrance was only 16 feet (5 meters) away. Unfortunately, Sohail was nowhere to be found once they were inside.
According to Ali, at that time, the Taliban had quickly gained control over the country while U.S. troops withdrew, making their whole family take more than a half-hour getting to the airport fence’s other side.
Ali, who has spent ten years working as a security guard at the U.S embassy, started questioning every official he ran into about Sohail’s whereabouts. A military commander supposed that the airport was too dangerous for a baby; he suggested a particular area for children. Later, they both rushed there, but it was deserted.
In an interview through a translator, Ali said that the commander had accompanied him, searching everywhere around the airport without leaving his name. Being unable to speak English has forced Ali to rely on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to communicate.
Ali didn’t miss any chance asking every officer, military or civilian he encountered about his baby. He said: “I spoke to maybe more than 20 people,” as Reuters reported.
Ali felt even more desperate when he witnessed other families handing their babies over the Kabul airport fence to soldiers and reuniting afterward. He said: “Everyone promises they will do their best, but they are just promises.”
Suraya, Ali’s wife, spoke through a translator that she had spent most of her time thinking about her baby and cried for days while her remaining children were in distress. However, she received encouragement from her family, reassuring her: “Everyone that is calling me, my mother, my father, my sister, they all comfort me and say ‘don’t worry, God is kind, your son will be found.'”
That’s not all the support the Afghan family gets; an Afghan refugee support group created a “Missing Baby” sign. The sign appeared with Sohail’s picture and was spread among their networks, hoping that someone may recognize him.
According to civilian officials Ali spoke to, there were insufficient resources to keep the baby here, so that Sohail might have been evacuated on his own.
According to a U.S. government official familiar with the situation, the case has been highlighted for relevant agencies, including the U.S. bases and overseas locations.
A State Department spokesperson stated that the government was cooperating with international partners and the international community in their search to locate the child, including issuing a global amber alert through the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ali’s family is now at Fort Bliss in Texas, together with Afghan refugees waiting to be relocated somewhere in the United States without any relatives after taking an evacuation flight to Qatar, then to Germany, and eventually landing in the United States.