An Afghan baby’s harrowing escape to the U.S.

Phoenix, Arizona — The 9-second video became a symbol of the desperation engulfing the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. A 16-day-old girl was grabbed by an arm and passed over razor wire to a U.S. Marine at the airport in Kabul. 

The girl’s father, Hameed, whose full name is not being published for security reasons, had been at the Kabul airport throughout August helping the Marines with evacuations. On the other side of the wall, he could see his wife and baby through a fence and feared that they would be crushed to death in the chaos. He asked a Marine standing on a vehicle to help pull his daughter to safety.

It was the first time he met his daughter, whose name is Liya. Hameed, a linguist and cultural adviser, had missed her birth because he was assisting the U.S. and hadn’t left the airport.

He said he held Liya for two minutes before he handed his daughter to another Marine. Then he focused on saving his wife, Sadia, who was robbed by the Taliban at a checkpoint near the airport as she tried to escape Afghanistan. 

Sadia made it through the gate several hours later and Hameed went to find his daughter. The three were evacuated on a flight out of Kabul later that day. 

“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 fine,” Hameed said. 

Liya, now 8-weeks-old, is safe with her parents in the Phoenix area. They had no idea the video of their daughter had gripped the world’s attention until they landed in the U.S. 

“I’ll tell her she’s a fighter. She made it through the worst of times at the beginning of her life. So I’m thinking to put Marine as her middle name,” Hameed said.