The infant from the now-famous photograph showing a Marine pulling a baby over a barbed-wire fence outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has been reunited with her family and is safe in America.
The infant, Liya, is now 8 weeks old. But when she was about two weeks old, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, setting off a desperate push among U.S.-aligned interpreters and advisors to escape the country before the Taliban meted out retribution.
Liya’s parents were among those desperate to flee. Her father, Hameed, served as a linguist and cultural advisor to military officials in Kabul, Phoenix’s CBS 5 reports. He was privy to high-level meetings at the U.S. Embassy and the Presidential Palace.
On Aug. 19, Hameed was on one side of the barbed-wire fence, his wife on the other. For the past month, he had been basically living at the airport as he assisted the Marines there with the evacuation process. Meanwhile, she had given birth to Liya and realized that she would need to brave the throngs of people outside the airport without her husband to escape from the country.
As Hameed watched the Taliban trying to control the crowd by force, he feared for the safety of his wife and infant. So he spoke with a Marine standing along the barbed-wire fence about helping his baby. The Marine told him the best he could do was to lift Liya over the fence, but she’d probably be hurt in the process. Hameed decided to take the chance.
“That day I handed over my baby to a total stranger,” Hameed recalled to CBS 5. “The only thing I trusted is that he was a Marine, and that my daughter would be safe.”
Baby and Family Make It to Arizona
Hameed’s wife, Sadia, made it through the airport gate a few hours later. The Taliban had taken all of her documents, but she had Hameed to vouch for her, and after Hameed tracked down their baby, the three reunited on a plane out of Kabul later that day.
They did not realize their daughter had become a viral sensation until after they arrived in America. But Hameed said he was touched that so many people around the world were concerned for the fate of his daughter.
“I was surprised,” he said. “It made me emotional.”
The family is currently staying in the Phoenix area with friends of theirs. But without any documentation, they’ve struggled to access medical care or other services necessary for survival.
“I’m in kind of a pickle right now,” Hameed said. “I can’t take her to a doctor. I can’t get her insurance. She doesn’t have a Social [Security number]. We’ve applied for it, but God knows how long it’ll take.”
In the meantime, Hameed has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser for his infant. And he’s looking for the Marine who helped pull his baby over the fence in Kabul.
“Oh my God, I’d give him a hug,” Hameed said of what he’d do if he found him. “He literally saved my daughter’s life.”