The baby, Sohail Ahmadi, was just two months old when he went missing on August 19 as thousands of people rushed to leave Afghanistan as it fell to the Taliban.
Following an exclusive Reuters story published in November with his pictures, the baby was located in Kabul where a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi had found him in the airport and took him home to raise as his own.
Ahmadi told Reuters in early November in his desperation that day, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier who he believed to be an American, fully expecting he would soon make it the remaining five meters (15 feet) to the entrance to reclaim him.
Just at that moment, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back and it would be another half an hour before Ahmadi, his wife and their four other children were able to get inside.
But by then the baby was nowhere to be found.
Ahmadi 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 could be reunited with them later.
The US Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
Alone in the airport
On the same day Ahmadi and his family were separated from their baby, Safi had slipped through the Kabul airport gates after giving a ride to his brother’s family who were also set to evacuate.
Safi said he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. After he said he unsuccessfully tried to locate the baby’s parents inside, he decided to take the infant home to his wife and children. Safi has three daughters of his own and said his mother’s greatest wish before she died was for him to have a son.
In that moment he decided: “I am keeping this baby. If his family is found, I will give him to them. If not, I will raise him myself,” he told Reuters in an interview in late November.
After the Reuters story about the missing child came out, some of Safi’s neighbors — who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby — recognized the photos and posted comments about his whereabouts on a translated version of the article.
Razawi said he traveled two days and two nights to the capital bearing gifts — including a slaughtered sheep, several pounds of walnuts and clothing — for Safi and his family.
Finally, after feeling they had run out of options, Razawi contacted the local Taliban police to report a kidnapping. Safi told Reuters he denied the allegations to the police and said he was caring for the baby, not kidnapping him.
The complaint was investigated and dismissed and the local police commander told Reuters he helped arrange a settlement, which included an agreement signed with thumbprints by both sides. Razawi said the baby’s family in the end agreed to compensate Safi around 100,000 Afghani ($950) for expenses incurred looking after him for five months.
In the presence of the police, and amid lots of tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.
Razawi said Safi and his family were devastated to lose Sohail. “Hamid 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,” Razawi said.
The baby’s parents told Reuters they were overjoyed as they were able to see with their own eyes the reunion over video chat.
“There are celebrations, dance, singing,” said Razawi. “It is just like a wedding indeed.”
“We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he should return to them.”