A baby, who became an international symbol of the chaos spurred by the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August, has been reunited with her parents in the US, according to online news media AZ Family.
After the Taliban took over capital on August 19, a reporter recorded a video of a baby being carried across a crowd to a Marine who grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up to safety over a barbed-wire fence.
For several days, the baby’s and her parents’ identities were unknown.
The now- eight-week-old baby was 16 days old when her parents fled Afghanistan.
“When she’s older, I’ll tell her she’s a fighter,” her father, Hameed, told AZ Family. “She made it through the worst of times at the beginning of her life.”
The full names of the family have not been disclosed for security purposes as they still have family members hiding in Afghanistan.
The baby’s father worked as a linguist and cultural advisor for US military officials in Kabul. Throughout his five years of service to the US as an “Afghan ally,” he attended high-level meetings for the US government at the Presidential Palace, US Embassy in Afghanistan, and other secure sites.
For the entirety of August this year, Hameed worked at the airport in Kabul, helping US Marines with evacuations. He lived at the airport as he was not able to leave the area and was, therefore, unable to see his newborn baby but somehow managed to contact his wife, Sadia, despite the disruption to phone lines at the time, who had gone through a difficult delivery.
According to Hameed, by August 12, it became very clear that Sadia needed to flee the country, leaving their home behind, to save both herself and her newborn baby, Liya.
“We got intel that people were getting killed or going missing. By my affirmation [with the military], I knew my home would be next. It wasn’t a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’” he added.
His wife gathered their belongings on August 19, along with some cash and forms of identification, and headed to the airport with the baby. She then lost all of her belongings at a checkpoint near Kabul airport.
Sadia said that the Taliban took all their IDs, gold, cash and passports. Sadia and Liya joined the crowd of people trying to push through a small opening in the gate at the airport in Kabul where Hameed saw them from the other side of the fence.
“They were using water cannons and flashbangs to control the crowd. Every time a bang went off, I could see my daughter start screaming and crying. I couldn’t do anything to help,” he said.
While several made it through the airport’s gates, many were beaten by the Taliban.
“I knew she’d never make it through. She’d be crushed to death, God forbid, or severely injured,” said Hameed.
Hameed reached out to a Marine standing on a vehicle along the barbed-wire fence and told him his baby was on the other side of it.
“He told me the only thing he could do was lift her over the barbed wire, but he said she’d be hurt. I told him I’ll take the chance. I’d rather her get hurt than die,” he told the Marine, who agreed to help him.
Hameed stabilized the Marine’s legs, allowing him to lean over to grab Liya by her right arm. He lifted her over the barbed wire, leading to the very first moment that Hameed was able to see his newborn daughter.
In the meantime, however, his wife collapsed from exhaustion, and he still had to figure out a way to get her through the gate.
He handed Liya back to the Marine who saved her, not knowing when he would be able to see her again.
“That day I handed over my baby to a total stranger. The only thing I trusted is that he was a Marine, and that my daughter would be safe,” he said.
Sadia made it through the gate several hours later and Hameed continued his search of Liya.
They eventually reunited and were all put on a plane later that day along with other evacuees.
“What was heartbreaking is, I was inside and had somebody to pull my daughter over the wire. There were thousands of others who didn’t have that opportunity.”