As scenes of desperation played out by the gates of Kabul’s airport in August, the parents of 4-month-old Sohail Ahmadi handed their baby over the fence to U.S. troops, thinking it would be safer for him on the other side than in the midst of the chaotic crowd gathered outside of the airport.
They thought they’d be reunited with their son within minutes—but they haven’t seen him since.
“We didn't know which military member we handed the baby to on August 19,” Soraya, Sohail’s mother, told The Daily Beast in an interview. “There was a big rush to cross the gate and I was afraid. I was not able to breathe and we decided to give the baby to the military to pass the gate more easily.”
Soraya and her husband, Mirza, Afghan refugees who are now living in Fort Bliss, Texas, told The Daily Beast they had searched frantically for Sohail to no avail once they had made it inside of the airport gates.
“After crossing the gate, we looked for the baby. We looked for three days,” Soraya said. Eventually, the parents, along with their other four children, were flown to Qatar, then Germany, ultimately landing in Texas where they are awaiting resettlement within the U.S. Hearing that their son may have been evacuated separately, Sohail’s parents said they searched for him at every step of their journey, including in Qatar and Germany, but “We could not find him,” said Soraya.
An American government official told Reuters that since then, Sohail’s case had been flagged to “all agencies involved,” but, “unfortunately no one can find the child.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, the State Department wrote, “While we generally don't comment on specific cases, the U.S. government is aware of this case and we are working with our international partners and the international community to explore every avenue to locate the child, which includes an international amber alert that was issued through the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
A U.S. government agency worker involved in Sohail’s case told The Daily Beast that efforts to locate the baby have “reached an impasse.”
“Many different agencies have been trying to work together through their respective channels to locate this baby,” the caseworker, who asked The Daily Beast not to publish her name as they aren’t authorized to speak to the press about the investigation, said. “But they have not yet been successful in their efforts.”
Dr. Saman Hamidi-Azar, chair of the unaccompanied children task force at Afghan Refugee Relief, told The Daily Beast she had been referred to Sohail’s case on Oct. 3. Since then, several other NGOs, including Operation Allies Welcome and UNICEF have been involved in efforts to locate the baby.
“It has been heartbreaking, honestly speaking. I see the baby in my dreams sometimes, and as a mother of four it haunts me even more,” Hamidi-Azar told The Daily Beast. “I have a 10-month-old. It’s been frustrating and I dread anytime I have to give updates that are not positive. But I try to give them hope.”
In the meantime, Hamidi-Azar told The Daily Beast that the “plan on our end is to continue to spam the story and his face across the world as much as we can. If anyone has come across his face, they can alert us or the authorities.”
She added: “The biggest hurdle has been the sheer amount of chaos with this whole situation. Everything is shrouded in mystery. Those moments at the airport were chaotic. I am in touch with their family in Afghanistan and they are also frantic. Everyone is trying to keep hope alive.”
Meanwhile, Sohail’s mother Soraya said her children have been asking her where their brother has gone, leading to one sleepless night after another ever since the day he went missing at the airport. She told The Daily Beast there has been “no news” about her son from the agencies involved in investigating his disappearance so far.
“It's a deep pain and I cannot describe it,” she said. “I feel deep inside the loss and I'm waiting to be brought back to him. I'm praying he comes back to me… it is a nightmare.”