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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Child at centre of parental abduction case back in Canada

source: Calgary Herald

The eight-year-old boy at the centre of an international parental abduction case is back in Calgary, but the legal case over his custody is far from over.

The lawyer representing Layale Khalifeh confirmed Friday that she recently returned to Canada with her son, Jad El-Husseini, who had been in Lebanon with his father for a

But the circumstances surrounding Jad’s return to the country remain unclear. The boy’s father, Mohamad El-Husseini — who is wanted by authorities in Canada for allegedly abducting Jad in contravention of a custody order — is claiming Khalifeh violated a Lebanese court order by bringing him back to Canada.

The two sides will be in a Calgary courtroom next week, when Khalifeh’s lawyer, Andy Hayher, is seeking to restore full custody and care of Jad to his client.

“We’re going to work through the courts to try to get some normalcy back in (Jad’s) life,” Hayher said.

Hayher declined to comment on the specifics of Khalifeh’s journey back to Canada with Jad, but he refuted the accusation she abducted him in the process.

“To me, that makes no sense, because Jad is a Canadian citizen,” he said.

Khalifeh and El-Husseini married in Lebanon in 2005, separated in 2011 and divorced in Calgary in March 2014. Last July, Khalifeh agreed to let El-Husseini travel with Jad to Toronto, then Lebanon, for a vacation and to visit relatives.pic

Khalifeh signed a legal consent letter that specified El-Husseini and their son would return to Calgary on Sept. 1, but they never arrived. When Khalifeh went looking for El-Husseini, she found his house vacant, a second property had been sold and that he had cancelled his return tickets to Canada.

Khalifeh went to police, who charged El-Husseini with parental abduction and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest. Khalifeh also obtained an order in Court of Queen’s Bench granting her sole custody of Jad.

However, the arrest warrant — which remains in effect — and the Calgary court order don’t have any authority in Lebanon, which never signed an international treaty governing parental abductions, known as The Hague Convention.

Khalifeh went to Lebanon last September to find her ex-husband and Jad. She hired a lawyer who practises Islamic sharia law, which in Lebanon governs family legal matters such as marriage, divorce and child custody.


After finding El-Husseini, Khalifeh was able to petition a Lebanese court for access to Jad. However, Hayher said Khalifeh had to agree to quash the Canadian order granting her sole custody before the Lebanese court would allow her to spend time with her son. Hayher alleged she made the decision under duress.

“She was compelled to agree to a number of things she normally wouldn’t have agreed to,” he said.

In an affidavit filed in support of her bid to have custody restored, Khalifeh accused El-Husseini of abuse and trying to indoctrinate their son with anti-western views.

“I found (Jad) to be markedly different in Lebanon. He was much angrier and violent. I believe this was due to some of the fanatical and extremist ideology that the plaintiff was imparting on my son,” Khalifeh stated in her affidavit.

“My son would tell me that the plaintiff would routinely tell him how terrible Israel was and that Canada was like Israel.”

El-Husseini’s lawyer in Calgary, Max Blitt, denied the abuse allegations in Khalifeh’s affidavit and said his client never tried to force extremist ideologies on Jad.

“He practises his faith, as his mother’s family practises their faith,” Blitt said.

Blitt said his client opposes Khalifeh’s custody claim and he alleged she breached the Lebanese court’s order by bringing him back to Calgary.

“In violation of the Lebanese agreement, she took him back to Canada,” said Blitt.

“There’s a double abduction (allegation). How the courts deal with that is going to be very interesting.”

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Canada: Surrey dad who tried to take his kids to Egypt loses appeal of abduction convictions

February 21,  2015

Source: The Now Newspaper

VANCOUVER — A Surrey man who tried to take off with his four children to Egypt after getting into a domestic fight with their mother has lost an appeal of his parental abduction convictions.

Vancouver at Night

There’s a publication ban on any information that could identify the child victims or witnesses. The appellant, identified only as M.E-H, appealed his four convictions at B.C.’s Court of Appeal but lost.

The court heard that after a “domestic disturbance” with his wife, the man drove their four children to Seattle where police found them two days later at Sea-Tac airport, just about to board a flight to Egypt.

The domestic fight happened in Surrey, where M.E-H lived with his wife N.H. and their four children. The court heard the couple separated on July 17, 2013, after police arrested M.E-H, released him and took his wife to a transition house.

The provincial court judge found that the wife wanted out of the marriage and also wanted to take the children with her to the transition house, but a police officer told her she couldn’t take them without a court order.

That afternoon, after leaving the family home, N.H. obtained an ex parte court order under the Family Act denying M.E-H parental time and prohibiting him from taking the children out of B.C., but he didn’t known this.

After N.H. got the ex parte orders a representative of the transition house asked police to serve them on M.E-H, but when they returned to the residence with N.H., it was clear M.E-H and the children had left in a hurry.

The court heard M.E-H had checked into a hotel in Seattle and had bought plane tickets for him and the children. He claimed he had his wife’s permission to take them but provincial court Judge Ellen Gordon decided that wasn’t the case and found M.E-H guilty of four counts of child abduction contrary to Section 283(1) of the Criminal Code.

The couple’s eldest daughter, age 12, testified that after the police had left with their mother, her father told the children that the “ministry” would take them away and that they could hide by going to the U.S. then Egypt. Her brother, 11, corroborated this.


The girl testified that prior to the July 17, 2013 domestic fight her father wanted to move the family to Egypt but her mom was adamantly against the plan because of kidnappings, killings and an ongoing civil war there.

M.E-H testified that the family was planning to move to Egypt from Surrey and disagreed that the couple had been in an unhappy marriage.

Gordon found, however, that “the circumstances point beyond a reasonable doubt to a conclusion that N.H. had no intention to have her children move to Egypt.”

Gordon found that as soon as N.H was out of the house, M.E-H had “terrified the children by telling them that the police were going to arrange for them to be apprehended by some government ministry.”

Appeal Court Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick dismissed M.E-H’s appeal of his convictions on Wednesday, Feb. 18, with Justices Nicole Garson and Anne MacKenzie concurring.

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