Canadian diplomats stalled negotiations on freeing children abducted to Iran, mother says

June 2, 2016

Source: national post

Canadian diplomats stalled negotiations on freeing four children abducted by their father and taken to Iraq because they wanted to first wait for a legal opinion on whether they could hold discussions with the terrorist organization sheltering the group.

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The delay of up to five months allowed Saren Azer, wanted by the RCMP for child abduction, to leave Iraq and flee to Iran with the youngsters, says the children’s mother, Alison Azer.

Comox Valley RCMP said Saren Azer has contacted its investigators to assure them the children are safe, according to The Canadian Press, and talks continue in a bid by police to confirm they are indeed safe. A spokeswoman said the investigation is “very active and ongoing.”

Alison Azer believes her ex-husband is in Iran and contends his background with political groups that support the Kurdish independence movement means he and her children are not safe in the country. His past affiliation with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran could be considered treason, she said.

“I think that it’s a positive step that he’s reached out to authorities,” she said. “He is an international fugitive, and he’s in a country where the signs are that increasingly they are not very happy to have him there because of his political history.”

She said she’s waiting to see how his conversations with the RCMP unfold and she has promised all along to do what she can to ease his re-entry to Canada.

Dr. Saren Azer originally fled to northern Iraq in August 2015 and was living in territory controlled by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorist group, better known as the PKK.

By October, Canadian diplomats knew the precise location of Azer and the four Canadian children but wanted to get a legal opinion on the ramifications of discussing with PKK officials the return of the youngsters.

By the time that opinion came earlier this year, Azer had fled to Iran with the children. “They (diplomats) wasted precious time that could have been used to get my children back,” said Alison Azer, Saren’s former wife.

Her lawyer unsuccessfully tried to obtain a copy of the legal opinion provided to Global Affairs Canada.

Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Tania Assaly said the Canadian government remains deeply concerned for the well-being of the children and is pursuing their safe return. “The government of Canada does not discuss publicly the legal advice it receives,” she noted in an email.

It is unclear whether diplomats ever contacted PKK officials about arranging the release of the youngsters.

Alison Azer has been asking the Canadian government to ensure the safe return of her children: 11-year-old Sharvahn; Rojevahn, nine; Dersim, seven; and Meitan, three. In August, the RCMP issued an arrest warrant for Saren Azer on charges of abduction after he failed to return from a trip to Europe with the children.

Dr. Azer and the children, originally from Comox, B.C., are currently living in the city of Mahabad in northwestern Iran.

Saren Azer Abducted.png

Mahabad is Azer’s home city and where his mother, four brothers and four sisters live.

But Azer’s return to Iran raises new questions about his refugee claim that prompted Canada to award him citizenship. After arriving in Canada in 1994, he denounced the Iranian government and claimed his life was in danger if he were ever to return to that country. Azer also claimed to have been tortured by the Iranian government.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, however, alleged Saren was linked to the PKK terrorist group.

Azer denied that and government officials ignored the spy agency’s concerns and granted him citizenship.

Alison Azer said she originally admired and supported her ex-husband’s efforts to help Kurdish refugees. But the two separated more than three years ago after Saren became increasingly strident in his views regarding Islam. Alison also voiced concern about his involvement with the PKK.

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