'Have you seen our baby?': Afghan parents desperately seek missing infant handed to US troops amid chaotic Kabul airlift
It was a split second decision. Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Suraya found themselves and their five children on Aug.19 in a chaotic crowd outside the gates of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan when a US soldier, from over the tall fence, asked if they needed help.
Fearing their two-month old baby Sohail would get crushed in the melee, they handed him to the soldier, thinking they would soon get to the entrance, which was only about 16 feet (5 metres) away.
But at that moment, Mirza Ali said, the Taliban — which had swiftly taken over the country as US troops withdrew — began pushing back hundreds of hopeful evacuees. It took the rest of the family more than a half hour to get to the other side of the airport fence.
Once they were inside, Sohail was nowhere to be found.
Mirza Ali, who said he worked as a security guard at the US embassy for 10 years, began desperately asking every official he encountered about his baby's whereabouts. He said a military commander told him the airport was too dangerous for a baby and that he might have been taken to a special area for children. But when they got there it was empty.
"He walked with me all around the airport to search everywhere," Mirza Ali said in an interview through a translator. He said he never got the commander's name, as he didn't speak English and was relying on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to help communicate. Three days went by.
"I spoke to maybe more than 20 people," he said. "Every officer — military or civilian — I came across I was asking about my baby."
He said one of the civilian officials he spoke to told him Sohail might have been evacuated by himself. "They said 'we don't have resources to keep the baby here.'"
Mirza Ali, 35, Suraya, 32, and their other children, 17, 9, 6 and 3 years old, were put on an evacuation flight to Qatar and then to Germany and eventually landed in the United States. The family is now at Fort Bliss in 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 babies over the Kabul airport fence to soldiers at the same time. One video clip of a small baby in a diaper being hoisted by her arm over razor wire went viral on social media. She was later reunited with her parents.