U.S. families mid-adoption trying to get Afghan children out

Aug 17, 2021, 2:25 AM | Updated: 3:52 pm
This photo provided by Bahaudin Mujtaba shows Noman Mujtaba, left, and Bahaudin Mujtaba in Kabul, A...

This photo provided by Bahaudin Mujtaba shows Noman Mujtaba, left, and Bahaudin Mujtaba in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Dec. 21, 2017. The boy, now 10 years old, is a distant relative of Mujtaba, who lives in Florida and is trying to adopt him and bring him to the United States. (Courtesy of Bahaudin Mujtaba via AP)

(Courtesy of Bahaudin Mujtaba via AP)

              This photo provided by Bahaudin Mujtaba shows Noman Mujtaba, left, and Bahaudin Mujtaba in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Dec. 21, 2017. The boy, now 10 years old, is a distant relative of Mujtaba, who lives in Florida and is trying to adopt him and bring him to the United States. (Courtesy of Bahaudin Mujtaba via AP)
              This photo provided by Bahaudin Mujtaba shows Noman Mujtaba, left, and Bahaudin Mujtaba in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Dec. 21, 2017. The boy, now 10 years old, is a distant relative of Mujtaba, who lives in Florida and is trying to adopt him and bring him to the United States. (Courtesy of Bahaudin Mujtaba via AP)

After five frustrating years mired in bureaucratic delays, Bahaudin Mujtaba and wife Lisa had hoped to finally bring the 10-year-old Afghan boy they’re adopting to their home in Florida this year for a chance at a different future.

But with the collapse of the Afghan government, the couple is desperately trying to get the boy, Noman, on a flight out of Kabul — going anywhere — before the chance to leave disappears.

In the chaos following the Taliban takeover, Noman and another family tried to get to the airport Tuesday through clogged streets, checkpoints and gunfire but were forced to turn back.

Mujtaba, who spoke to the boy and the family early Tuesday, said they hope to try again to get to the airport Wednesday.

“I have tears in my eyes this morning and my wife has tears in her eyes,” he said. “I couldn’t really say much else other than ‘Go for it’ and ‘Be careful.'”

The Taliban’s dramatic takeover of Afghanistan has reverberated worldwide, and for families like the Mujtabas, the fallout has been swift, deeply personal and potentially life-altering. Knowing the militant group is almost certain not to uphold the adoption agreements from the collapsed Afghan government, the American couple’s best hope is to get the boy out, fast.

“Once they get to the airport, it’s just a matter of waiting time. But it’s a matter of waiting a few hours or a few days,” Bahaudin Mujtaba said. Noman is currently in the custody of another family trying to leave.

Maybe they can get the boy to a nearby country. Maybe Pakistan. Wherever they go, he’s willing to fly there and meet him.

“But the first goal is to get him out of Afghanistan safely,” Mujtaba said.

It’s unclear how many among the throngs of people trying to flee Afghanistan include potential adoptive children. One other U.S. family, based in Indiana, is working with the same adoption agency as Mujtaba and is trying to get a 2-year-old boy out of the country.

Mary King, executive director of Frank Adoption Center in Wake Forest, North Carolina, is working with the families and said they had full permission from Afghan courts to bring the children to the U.S. and finalize the adoptions. They were awaiting U.S. visas, but everything changed in the past few days.

“This all came about much faster than any of us anticipated, so we don’t know,” she said. “We have put them on every list. We’ve filled out every form we’ve been told about. Their names are everywhere we can get them, as far as with the appropriate U.S. authorities. And so now we are waiting to hear what may happen next.”

U.S. adoptions from Afghanistan are relatively rare compared with adoptions from other countries, according to State Department data. From 1999 through 2019, 41 Afghan children were adopted by U.S. families. That’s far fewer than other countries in the region, including 148 children from Iran and 667 from Pakistan. Other countries, like China, Ukraine and Colombia, have seen thousands of children adopted by U.S. families over the past two decades.

The process in Afghanistan required working through the Afghan Family Court, which limited the guardianship process to Muslim parents. Families that receive permission from the court can then bring a child to the U.S. to finalize an adoption, according to the State Department.

But under Taliban rule, it’s all but certain not to be permitted now, Mujtaba said, especially from a family based in the U.S.

Mujtaba and his adoption agency have reached out to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s office for help. Mujtaba has even offered to go to Afghanistan with the U.S. military, offering his familiarity with the language and culture in return for a chance to bring the boy home.

Rubio’s office confirmed it is working with Mujtaba and the adoption agency but did not offer more details about what options the senator’s staff was pursuing.

Mujtaba and his wife agreed to adopt Noman, a distant relative, after Mujtaba met him during a visit to Kabul five years ago.

“I just basically fell in love with this little boy. And based on hearing everything, then we knew we had the means and the motivation to help him,” he said.

The child’s mother died of cancer, leaving the boy with his adult brothers and elderly father who is unable to care for him. Mujtaba described Noman as “a little boy who has big dreams.” He loves music, gets top grades in school and wants to become an engineer or a doctor — a profession Mujtaba said the boy may be drawn to because he’s had to meet with so many doctors.

Noman appears to have diabetes and other medical issues, possibly stemming from nutrition problems, but Mujtaba said it’s not totally clear if the doctors in Afghanistan gave him the right diagnosis or the treatments.

“That’s the environment, unfortunately, that you’re in, in Afghanistan,” he said. “We’re not really sure exactly what the problems might be, once we get here. He’s fine for a period of time and then, unfortunately, he’s not.”

Mujtaba is an U.S. citizen who emigrated from Afghanistan 40 years ago. After the Taliban was displaced two decades ago, he returned in 2005 to the country of his birth for the first time in 20 years. He’s visited Noman 10 times over the past years, staying three to five weeks at a time.

His wife, who is American, has never been to Afghanistan or met the boy in person because it seemed too dangerous to bring her, Mujtaba said.

King, whose agency primarily handles international adoptions, said her agency processed another adoption from Afghanistan in 2017, but they’ve never had to deal with a collapsed government. She said her team are working with the families to get the children out, hoping to secure emergency visas amid a situation she described as “very, very scary.”

“I’m watching this as their social worker. I cannot fathom what they themselves are feeling and what these little boys are feeling,” she said.

Mujtaba, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, said that though the adoption process had felt drawn out, they were hopeful that they were close until about a week ago.

But now, he’s not sure when or if they will be able to bring the boy to his new home in Fort Lauderdale.

“I think that that’s in jeopardy now,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi...
David Klepper, Associated Press

Twitter ends enforcement of COVID misinformation policy

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus. Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura, a corporal in the U.S. Army during the Korean War...
Associated Press

US Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura dies at 97

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, the son of Japanese immigrants who was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for holding off an attack to allow an American squad to withdraw during the Korean War, has died. The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Miyamura died Tuesday at his home in Phoenix. He […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Amazon says it had its biggest Thanksgiving shopping weekend

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon said Wednesday it had its biggest ever Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend, aided by a record number of consumers looking for deals online amid high inflation. The e-commerce company does not typically share how much it earns during its sales events and did not disclose its overall revenue from the weekend. […]
1 day ago
Maria Correa, of Washington, center, who says she is sick with cancer, cannot work, and that things...
Associated Press

Higher food prices worsen hunger crisis this holiday season

WASHINGTON (AP) — Staffers at Bread for the City, a venerable charity in the nation’s capital, thought they were prepared for this year’s annual pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Helpers food giveaway. The pandemic had faded, but inflation was high, so they budgeted to give out 12,000 meals, 20% higher than normal pre-pandemic levels. But they were quickly […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US Sen. Mike Braun files paperwork for Indiana governor run

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun formally launched a committee Wednesday for a 2024 campaign for governor in his home state of Indiana, a move that would forego a reelection bid for his Senate seat. Braun, the 68-year-old wealthy founder of a national auto parts distribution business, is the most prominent of several […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

19 injured in ethane explosion in southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Authorities in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz said 19 people were injured where a pipeline carrying ethane gas exploded. The Veracruz state civil defense office said most of the people injured in the explosion Tuesday in the town of Agua Dulce suffered first-degree burns. As of Wednesday, the government-owned […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
U.S. families mid-adoption trying to get Afghan children out