© Reuters. Sohail Ahmadi, about two months old, is seen in these photos posted on a poster, taken in August 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sohail’s parents Mirza Ali and his wife Soraya hand him over the fence to a US soldier on August 19, 2021 in Cha.
Written by Micah Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – It was an imperfect decision by the second. Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Soraya found themselves and their five children on August 19 in a chaotic crowd outside the gates of Kabul Airport in Afghanistan when a US soldier, over the high fence, asked if they needed help.
Fearing that their two-month-old Sohail would be crushed in the melee, they handed him over to the soldier, thinking they would soon reach the entrance, which was only about 16 feet (5 meters) away.
But at that moment, Mirza Ali said, the Taliban – who had quickly taken control of the country with the withdrawal of US forces – began pushing back hundreds of whom they had hoped to be evacuated. It took the rest of the family more than half an hour to get to the other side of the airport fence.
Once they entered, Sohail was nowhere to be found.
Mirza Ali, who said he worked as a security guard at the US embassy for 10 years, began asking every official he met about where his child was. He said a military commander told him that the airport was too dangerous for a baby and that he might have been moved to a special children’s area. But when they got there it was empty.
“He walked with me around the airport to search everywhere,” Mirza Ali said in an interview via an interpreter. He said he never got the commander’s name, because he didn’t speak English and was relying on his Afghan colleagues at the embassy for help with communication. Three days passed.
“I’ve talked to maybe more than 20 people,” he said. “Every officer – military or civilian – I came across was asking about my child.”
He said that one of the civilian officials he spoke to told him that Sohail may have been evacuated himself. “They said, ‘We don’t have the resources to keep the baby here.'”
Mirza Ali, 35, Soraya, 32, and their other children, 17, 9, 6 and 3, were put on an evacuation flight to Qatar and then to Germany and eventually landed in the United States. The family is now in Fort Bliss, Texas, with other Afghan refugees waiting to be resettled somewhere in the United States. They have no relatives here.
Mirza Ali said he saw other families handing their children over to the Kabul airport fence at the same time. A video clip https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/the-only-way-out-scenes-from-the-kabul-a-idUSRTXFVLJR of a toddler in a diaper whose arm is raised over a razor wire has gone viral on social media . She was later reunited with her parents.
Mirza Ali said that since his child lost the appointments it has been foggy. Everyone he meets – aid workers and US officials – tells them about Sohail. “Everyone promises that they will do their best, but they are just promises,” he said.
The Afghan Refugee Support Group has put up a “Missing Child” sign with Sohail’s picture and is circulating it on their networks in the hope that someone will recognize him.
A US government official familiar with the situation said the case had been reported to all relevant agencies, including US bases and overseas sites. The official added that the child was last seen being handed over to a US soldier during the chaos at Kabul airport, but “unfortunately no one can find the child.”
A Defense Department spokesperson and a spokesperson for the US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees resettlement efforts, referred inquiries about the matter to the State Department, since the separation occurred overseas.
A foreign ministry spokesman said the government was working with international partners and the international community to “explorate all avenues to locate the child, including an international amber alert issued through the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
Soraya, who also spoke through an interpreter, said that she cries most of the time and that her other children are dazed.
“All I do is think about my child,” Soraya said. “Everyone who calls me, my mother, my father, my sister, they all comfort me and say ‘Don’t worry, God is kind, your son will be found.'”