Calgarians join Alison Azer's fight to bring 4 kids home from war zone
'I go to bed every night wondering what they're thinking. Do they know we're looking for them?' says aunt
Dozens gathered at City Hall for a candlelight vigil Monday, asking the Canadian government to bring home four children who were allegedly abducted by their father and taken to a war zone in northern Iraq.
Alison Azer has been pleading with government officials and has even travelled to Kurdistan on her own to find her children, who are between the ages of three and 11.
Their father, Dr. Saren Azer, took them abroad seven months ago for a summer vacation and failed to return, in spite of custody orders.
- Saren Azer, missing with his 4 children, wanted on abduction charges
- Canadian mom Alison Azer fears abducted kids in Iraq with their dad
"I go to bed every night wondering what they're thinking. Do they know we're looking for them? Are they safe? It's just been a nightmare," said Tammy Jeffrey, sister-in-law to Alison.
A total of four vigils took place across the country Monday, calling on the federal government to take stronger diplomatic action.
"It seems to be a political game that's going on now," said Jeffrey. "We need to get these kids home. It's as simple as that."
"They say, 'Yes, we'll do all we can,' but we're not seeing anything. It doesn't mean that nothing is being done, but we're not seeing what's being done."
Father allegedly tied to rebel army
While in Canada, Dr. Saren Azer raised money for several trips to Iraq, which were intended to bring medical equipment and services to refugees there.
But according to Alberta Liberal leader David Swann, some of those humanitarian resources were diverted to militant group the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK.
Health Partners International has "cut off all support to [Saren's] organization since learning from people on the ground that some of these medications and medical supplies were not going to where they were supposed to go," Swann said.
Swann, who himself donated for a period of five or six years, called the revelations "disturbing."
'These are her four dear children'
Friends and family say Alison Azer has done everything humanly possible to try to get her children back.
"I don't know what more she could do," said Melanie Sharpe, a close high school friend. "She's gone there. She's found them.
"She's spent three months in a region she's unfamiliar with and cultivated the relationships to get as far as she could. Now she just needs that extra support to bring them home," Sharpe said.
"She's been within a kilometre of where they are, yet not allowed to see them, touch them, talk to them. It's hard."
Alison's brother, Charlie Jeffrey, says the last known location of the children was in an area that the Turkish government has been shelling.
"The stakes are so high. These are her four dear children. She has to get them back," he said.
Jeffrey remains hopeful that if people continue to write to their MLAs and MPs the government will take action.
"One day there will be a breakthrough. One day, we're going to wake up and these children are going to be on a plane, back from this horrible place that they're in now."
With files from Kate Adach and Evelyne Asselin