Alison Azer feels everyday she’s getting closer to having her four children come back home.
Last Thursday evening, the Courtenay mother addressed and thanked a group of about 50 friends, family and community members at a community awareness meeting at Queneesh Elementary.
Azer recently returned from Ottawa where she sat in the House of Commons while Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns asked the Liberal government during Question Period what actions they are taking to ensure the safe return of her children.
“It did leave me with more hope then when I arrived,” she said prior to the meeting.
It has been six months since the Courtenay mother has seen her four children who were allegedly abducted by their father last summer.
In August, Alison received word her ex-husband – Dr. Saren Azer (also known as Salahaddin Mahummudi-Azer) – hadn’t returned to Canada from a court-approved trip to Europe with her children Sharvahn, 11, Rojevahn, 9, Dersim, 7 and Meitan, 3.
Comox Valley RCMP sought and obtained a Canada Wide Warrant of Arrest for Azer – who practiced at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox.
Late last year, Alison travelled to Kurdistan, where, on Nov. 11, she found the location of her children.
Located in the Qandil Mountains in the northeast region of Iraq, Alison said the children are in an area governed by a group called the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
She added learning of their location was helpful, as was getting insight on what the government is able to do.
“The Canadian government is very well-positioned in Kurdistan. We’ve got lots of assets on the ground, lots of resources. I got as close to my kids as I could get without setting off an international event. I went into the Qandil region – I cleared seven checkpoints. I presented myself to the leadership of the group that was harbouring Saren because I wanted them to look in the eyes of the mom.
“While I didn’t leave with my children, I know I made a difference by presenting myself. I know that I was able to get word back to the children that I was there. “
While she doesn’t know in detail their living conditions, she does know the area is very cold, with more than two metres of snow.
“They’re in an area where the buildings are made of concrete blocks and there no heating. They stay warm by burning crude in the middle of the room, which if you’ve ever tried to breath that in, it’s not healthy, and second of all, it’s dangerous. I’ve got a three-year-old walking around the room probably where there’s an open flame.”
Inside the meeting, Alison described in more detail the moment she found the location of the children. She received a phone call from her niece in Canada, frantically telling her to open her email.
There was a picture of Sharvahn and Rojevahn with a message in Kurdish that read ‘I’m about to make you very happy.’
“That was my first break. I never took the class in university ‘how to talk to informants 101’ but I had someone courageously reaching out to help my kids.”
The area is beyond the reach of the Kurdistan Regional Government and different efforts from political influences were made to negotiate with Saren, she said.
“But it didn’t work. The kids have not been in school since they left here in June. They have not held a pencil, they have not read a book.”
While she admits there is “a very clear line of sight to get these kids,” she admitted it will require the expenditure of political capital that many people would rather not spend.
“I told people in Ottawa I won’t accept no.”
On March 21, Alison will return to Ottawa for a vigil on Parliament Hill, as well as use the opportunity to attempt to get a face-to-face with every Member of Parliament to ensure they know about her missing children.
For more information, visit findazerkidsnow.com.