A 10-year-old Afghan is now safe at home in Florida with his adoptive parents after a years-long adoption process that was nearly derailed by the Taliban takeover of the country.
Ten-year-old Noman Mujtaba was expelled from the airport by the Taliban and forced to witness violence and deadly stampedes before enduring an arduous 12-day journey from Kabul to Broward County, Florida.
Bahaudin Mujtaba, 55, and his wife, Lisa, 54, spent five years trying to officially adopt and take in Norman, a distant relative, and were nearly done with the process when the Taliban entered.
But thanks to a windfall with an American who was in Kabul and the help of US military personnel, Bahaudin says they experience “an amazing sense of joy” at finally being a family, while Norman adjusts to American life and has a bedroom for first for himself.
House! Bahaudin Mujtaba and his wife, Lisa, spent five years drying up to adopt Norman, a distant relative whose mother died of cancer — and now the little boy is finally with them in Florida
Trip: Norman (pictured in Qatar) underwent a 12-day journey with stops in two other countries after leaving Kabul on a military plane
Exciting! Norman first landed in Washington, DC and then traveled to Florida, where he first met his adoptive mother Lisa
Bahaudin and Lisa couldn’t have biological children, so a few years ago they considered adoption. They soon learned about Norman, a distant relative whose cousin is married to Bahaudin’s father’s cousin.
Norman’s mother had died of cancer and his father is old and unable to care for him, so Norman had been staying with other relatives for years.
Bahaudin traveled to Afghanistan in 2016, where he first met Norman.
“He was very energetic and very talkative, and I fell in love with his personality at that moment,” Bahaudin said. NBC News.
“He was extremely smart in discussing why he would want to come to the United States and what he loves about the United States and has seen in movies and cartoon shows,” he added. NBC Miami.
Bahaudin, a professor at Nova Southeastern University who immigrated from Afghanistan 40 years ago and holds dual citizenship, went back ten times over the years.
But the adoption process was not easy. According to the AP, Afghanistan prefers to have children adopted by people who are themselves originally from Afghanistan, and who also practice Muslins. Only 41 Afghan children were adopted by families in the US between 1999 and 2019.
Corruption made the process extremely lengthy, but Bahaudin said it was “90 percent done” when the Taliban takeover suddenly made it much more difficult to complete the adoption.
When the Afghan government collapsed and Americans fled the county, Bahaudin said it was “heartbreaking” that they couldn’t tell the boy when he would finally come to live with them.
An American man in Kabul helped Norman get out, but Taliban security refused them entry to the airport on their first attempt
Cozy: Norman witnessed gunfire, fights, violence and a deadly rush at the airport – but he’s now home where he has his own bed and bedroom for the first time
Speaking to NBC News two weeks ago, Bahaudin said Norman was “very nervous” and that there was “a lot of fear” about what would happen next.
“And he’s at that age he doesn’t want to miss school. Everything is now closed. And that’s the fear he expressed to me on the phone,” he said.
Fortunately, however, there was also an American man from Indiana in Afghanistan waiting for a visa to take his own adopted son home.
The man, whom the Mujtabas had never met, agreed to take Norman to the US. Mary Beth King, the director of the Frank Adoption Center in Wake Forest, North Carolina, which helped both families with their adoption, told Stars and Stripes that the boys wouldn’t have made it out without him.
There were hiccups. First, Norman had to go through Taliban security. On his first attempt, he was refused entry.
“They actually had to give up that attempt to get into the airport and after 2pm they went home. Stayed one night, and the next day they tried again,” Bahaudin told NBC Miami.
The Taliban let him through on his second attempt, but the little boy didn’t make it without witnessing carnage.
“My son did say that the Taliban were firing bullets into the air to disperse the crowd and he was only meters away from that, so there was a lot of pushing, pushing and people running away and people getting caught, and unfortunately during the stampede “Many people were injured and died,” Bahaudin said.
Ongoing: Bahaudin had visited Norman several times over the years while they waited for the adoption to go through
“He said there was fighting, that there was violence. There was pushing and pushing, that was scary, that was terrifying,” he added CBS 12 News.
Finally, on August 28, he landed on a military plane from Kabul – where “everyone was packed like sardines.”
“He said the conditions were very bad. They had no air conditioning. There was one toilet for hundreds of people, so people had to wait an hour or more to go to the toilet alone,” Bahaudin said.
All in all, the trip to the US took 12 days. Norman flew first from Kabul to Qatar and then to Germany before finally traveling to the United States.
Halfway around the world, Bahaudin and his wife anxiously awaited news and would be days without updates because the traveling group would lose Wi-Fi or phone power.
“The wait for 25-30 hours was terrifying, very stressful and very challenging because you don’t know when or where they will fly out,” Bahaudin said.
“A lot of times I would watch the television, and the coverage of newspapers and journalists providing some footage, hoping to get a glimpse that he was okay. So these concerns do run through your mind, and unfortunately it’s challenging to deal with,” he told Spectrum’s Bay News 9.
Then, earlier this week, Norman finally landed in Washington, DC, where he was reunited with Bahaudin and first met Bahaudin’s wife, his new adoptive mother.
Family: Norman is a distant relative of the Mujtabas. His mother died of cancer and his father is elderly and unable to take care of him
“We are very lucky and appreciate all the people who have helped us to get to this point,” Bahaudin said.
“When he came to Florida, he said, ‘This is America. So I think maybe being so close to his mother finally made him feel like he was home,” Bahaudin said.
In his new house, Noman has his own room and bed for the first time.
“He was happy, happy and… [it’s] a pleasant experience to hear noise in that room and it’s not quiet like it always has been for the past three years,” said Bahaudin, who had decorated the room years ago while they waited for his arrival.
“So the fact that he’s there, making noise and in his room, that’s a feeling I can’t describe,” he added.
The boy has happily adapted to American life and loves chicken and swimming in a pool, which he had never done before.
He is still adjusting, and Bahaudin says Norman is still concerned about friends and family in Afghanistan.
But he and his wife are happy to get him out and are grateful to everyone who made this possible.
“We are very lucky and appreciate all the people who have helped us to get to this point,” he said.
“Especially all the soldiers who sacrificed much of their family time to go to Afghanistan and of course 13 of our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to evacuate 120,000 Afghans and Americans in Afghanistan.”