Feb. 15 marks exactly six months since Alison Azer last saw her four children, allegedly abducted by their father, Kurdish-Canadian doctor Saren Azer and taken to Iraq.

Alison Azer, who lives in the Comox Valley, travelled twice to Iraq in the past five months in hopes of finding her children — aged 11, 9, 7 and 3 — but both trips were in vain.

After returning from her latest trip, she spoke to On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot about her desperate circumstances and how much she misses her children.

When you first began your search for your children six months ago, did you have any sense or fear that you would still be looking for them six months later?

I long feared this would happen. It's been a terribly long, dark, frustrating, difficult time. But I don't know, six months in, how much further I still have to go.

What have you found out about the whereabouts of your children?

In September I went to the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil. I met with ministers who assured me they had every intention of exhausting all options available to them to find the children and return them to Canada.

Saren Azer also known as Salahaddin Mahmudi-Azer

A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for Saren Azer, also known as Salahaddin Mahmudi-Azer, after he failed to return with his four children from a trip to Germany. (HPIC/Facebook)

I took them at their word. I came back to Canada and stayed here for about six weeks before determining that I really needed to be on the ground in Kurdistan and finding out more information about where my children were and why it was so challenging for the Kurdistan regional government to get the children out of its own territory.

Part of the success of that second trip was through some efforts — brave, courageous efforts — of local Kurds. I was able to get information about the whereabouts of the children. It did give me some insight about why it is as complicated as it appears to be both for the Canadian government and the Kurdish government to free four innocent citizens.

What have you learned about those challenges?

It's a complicated part of the world. I'm no expert on the geopolitics of the region. It's a war zone. Where the children are, they're not safe. I just have to hold on to the hope and the belief that there's something my government can do in cooperation with the Kurdish government to do everything it takes to free those citizens.

What are you most concerned about at this point?

I'm concerned for their safety. I'm concerned they won't survive. I'm worried the only way they'll come out of Iraqi Kurdistan is in body bags.

What keeps you going?

I know they're still alive, and as long as they're alive, I have to keep fighting for them. My favourite part of the day is right when I wake up in the morning because there's this beautiful three to five seconds that I forget that the kids aren't there. I think, oh, it's time to get the kids up and get them off to school, and what should I pack for lunch, and who has swimming lessons after school, and what are we going to do this weekend. And for that handful of seconds, I have a life. And then the curtain just drops and everything goes dark. Because then, the reality sets in.

Do you plan to go back?

If I need to go back, I'll go back. If I need to walk on fire, I'll walk on fire. I'll do whatever it takes to get these kids home safely.


This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: 6 months after alleged kidnapping, Alison Azer speaks about search for her kids