Mother pleads for Canada to bring back children taken to Iran

August 16, 2016


Alison Azer wants federal government to help bring her four children home after their father took them to Iran in alleged abduction.


Alison Azer has not seen or spoken to her children in one year.

And now the Canadian mother of four is pleading with the federal government in Ottawa to bring her children home after their father took them out of the country last August and never returned.

“Today it just feels like such a tragic day and I’m so very disappointed to have to get to this point and for my children to have to get to this point,” Alison told Middle East Eye in a telephone interview on Monday, which marked exactly one year since her children were taken from Canada.

Alison said that she has not even been able to speak to her four children – Sharvahn, 12, Rojevahn, 10, Dersim, seven, and Meitan, four – since they left the country.

At the time, Alison said she believed the children were going on a holiday to Europe with their father, Saren Azer, who shared joint custody with Alison after the couple’s divorce.

But what was meant to be a two-week holiday has turned into a year-long nightmare.

“They can’t rescue themselves and I can’t do this alone,” said Alison, who has launched the website, “I really, really need the government to work with me to bring the Azer children, my children, back to Canada.”

Interpol red alert

Saren Azer, an Iranian citizen of Kurdish background who moved to Canada in the mid-1990s, said he wanted to take his children on holiday to Europe in August 2015, Alison said.

A BC court granted him specific permission to travel to France and Germany with the children provided that he check in with Alison every 48 hours and return to Canada on 22 August.

A day before the children were scheduled to return, however, Canada’s federal police (RCMP) alerted Alison that they had been abducted. They were seen in Germany in mid-August 2015 and they were later believed to have flown to Sulaimaniyah, in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, with their father.

A trained physician and Kurdish rights activist, Dr Azer regularly went to Iraqi Kurdistan to provide medical care and humanitarian support for internally displaced persons in the area. On 21 August 2015, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued an order requiring the children be returned to Canada immediately, and a few days later on 24 August 2015, the RCMP obtained a Canada-wide arrest warrant for Azer.


International police agency Interpol also issued an arrest order for him on charges of “abduction in contravention of custody order” at the Canadian authorities’ request.

“We understand how difficult this situation is for the children’s mother and others in the community. We will continue our efforts at home and abroad to locate and safely return these children to British Columbia,” the RCMP in Comox Valley, the area of BC the family lives, said in a statement at the time.

In June 2016, the RCMP confirmed that Azer had reached out to assure police “that the children are safe” and to answer questions posed by investigators.

“The RCMP is mindful that cases of this nature are very emotional. We are hopeful that the dialogue will continue so that a resolution can be found in this parental abduction investigation,” the RCMP statement read.

MEE’s request for additional comment from the RCMP in Comox Valley was not immediately returned on Monday.

Hundreds abducted annually

The Canadian government says hundreds of children are abducted and held in a country outside of Canada by a parent or guardian each year.

Parents found to have removed a child under age 14 from Canada against an existing custody order, or in violation of another custody rights agreement, constitute grounds for criminal prosecution. Such crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction – the main international treaty that governs international child abductions – aims to ensure the prompt return of children under the age of 16 that have been wrongfully removed from their primary place of residence. The convention is in force in about 90 countries, but Iran is not on that list.

Ottawa also does not currently have formal diplomatic ties with Tehran; relations were severed under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which makes the process of negotiating the children’s return all the more complicated.

Alison said she has been in touch with the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign affairs department, about the case. But the process, she said, has been full of “a tremendous amount of confusion [and] misinformation”.

“I don’t know who is leading this, who is accepting accountability; it changes pretty much week to week,” she said.

Her claims that Canadian officials did not respond when Iranian authorities contacted them following Azer’s detention in Iran on child abduction charges in June have been denied by Ottawa.

“The Iranian authorities never reached out to Canada when they brought Mr Azer in for questioning,” Omar Alghabra, a Liberal MP and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, told The Globe and Mail.

Francois Lasalle, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the government has been actively engaged on the Azer children’s case since it began, and holds their safety and wellbeing as a high priority.

“Officials in Ottawa and several of our offices abroad have spent hundreds of hours working to find a resolution to this very complex family case,” Lasalle said in an email.

He said that while Canada faces challenges due to its lack of diplomatic presence in Iran, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, about the Azer case because “Italy acts as Canada’s protecting power in Iran”.

“The government of Canada appreciates the assistance we have received from the Italian government,” Lasalle said.

The story of four little kids’

Meanwhile, Alison said she had hoped that she and her ex-husband could have co-parented in the best interests of their children, including teaching them about their dual Kurdish-Canadian heritage.

Instead, she said he put the children at risk by breaking Canadian laws.

“This is not a story of East versus West,” she said. “This is not a story of Islam versus the rest of the world, or fathers versus mothers, men versus women. This is the story of four little kids who – at no fault of their own – have been taken away from everything that was familiar to them and safe for them.”

Alison said she would continue to do everything she can to bring her children home safely, and urged Ottawa to do the same.

“It’s really, really important for my children and for all other kids that might be at risk of being abducted that the government of Canada shows leadership and responsibility to its citizens … and it just hasn’t done that yet.”

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B.C. doctor accused of abducting his kids contacts RCMP

June 5, 2016


The Comox Valley RCMP says it has been contacted by Saren Azer – a prominent Comox Valley doctor and father who took his children to the Middle East and never came back.


Saren is accused of abducting his four kids – daughters Sharvahn, 11, Rojevan, 9, and sons Dersim, 7, and Meitan, 3 – nine months ago.

The RCMP says they talked to Saren at length about his actions and he assured them that the children are safe.

Officers say they are hopeful that communication with the father will continue so that a resolution can be found in what they are calling a “parental abduction investigation.”

The children’s mother Alison Azer tells CTV News that the communication is a good sign.

“I think he’s realized that he needs to find his way back to Canada with the children. He’s made a terrible mistake, an illegal one and he’s an international fugitive,” Alison said. “He’s not safe where he is and as a result the children aren’t safe.”


Last month a Facebook group went online called “Azer children” – showing new pictures of the kids with their father and relatives.

In comments on the page Saren only says the children are happy and safe.

But their mom Alison says the safest place for her kids is at home in Canada.

“It’s an international fugitive who’s saying that they’re safe. Child abduction is child abuse, so until the children are returned to Canada they’re not safe and neither is their father,” Alison stated.

The mom of four says Wednesday was an especially difficult day for her because it was her youngest son’s fourth birthday.

“I miss my kids so desperately and yesterday I just held out hope all day long that Saren might let them call me,” Alison said. “I thought that there was a chance that he may give me that, give them that. It was a really long day.”

As for the mom, Alison says she’s still trying to make sense of how this could have happened in the first place.

“It doesn’t make any sense that ten months on the furthest that Canadian authorities have gotten is they’ve answered the call from an international fugitive. The Canadian government can do more and they must do more. We won’t stop until they do,” she said.

Last month Alison met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa. She says Trudeau assured her that the file pertaining to her kid’s case is on his desk and will stay there until the children come home.

“He’s called it a priority and I think Canadians are eager to see what that means for this relatively new government,” Alison noted.

She is heading back to Ottawa next week. Although she doesn’t have a meeting set up with the prime minister, she hopes she can get an update from his staff.

An online petition #MakeTheCall was started last month. It’s directed at Trudeau to contact his Iranian counterpart.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Saren Azer.

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Canadian mom Alison Azer fears abducted kids in Iraq with their dad

March 17, 2016


What started as a summer vacation in Europe for her four kids and their father, has become a seven-month-long ordeal for Alison Azer when her children were not returned to their home in British Columbia.


The children —  Sharvahn, 11, Rojevahn, 9,  Dersim, 7, and Mietan, 3 — are now believed to be in northern Iraq with Azer’s ex-husband, Dr. Saren Azer, held in a dangerous war zone.

“I don’t think many Canadians would tolerate four little Canadian kids coming out of a war zone in body bags from the place that the Canadian government knew, for months, that they were being held captive.” – Alison Azer says the Canadian government is not doing enough and has only done as much as it has due to her going public

Prior to their abduction, Azer was already on alert with the children’s father and had been granted custody of their passports. She saw the high possibility for parental abduction years ago when Saren told her “very bluntly” that he would not accept the children being raised in the West, nor would he accept co-parenting.

Dr. Saren Azer.png

A B.C. court granted Azer’s ex-husband permission to travel internationally with the kids twice, given they contact her every 48 hours. The first trip, to Paris during spring break, went according to the restrictions imposed, which Azer believes was to establish credibility in preparation for the summer trip to Europe.

Azer has been working hard for her kids’ return — she’s been to Ottawa, Washington, and Iraq to meet with authorities. Then in January she was told to stand down and hold tight since there was enough diplomatic momentum. Azer has yet to hear of any further progress in getting her children out of Iraq.

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