He's been searching for his granddaughter since 2015. He's never met her and is not sure where she is

Azdyne Amimour searches for his grandchild while trying to understand how his son became a notorious ISIS extremist

Azdyne Amimour searches for his grandchild while trying to understand how his son became an ISIS extremist

A portrait of Azdyne Amimour looking to the right. He is a man in his 70s, wearing a brown cap and a green jacket.
Azdyne Amimour is searching for a granddaughter he has never met. The documentary Finding Alaa follows Amimour as he takes the initial legal steps to locate the child in Syria. (CBC/Finding Alaa)

Azdyne Amimour is a modest husband, father and grandfather who lives in Paris. 

After a long and varied working life, he should be contemplating a peaceful retirement. Instead, he spends his days searching for a granddaughter he's never met. 

In November 2015, ISIS extremists launched a series of coordinated attacks around Paris, including at the Bataclan concert hall where 130 people were killed. Amimour's son, Samy, was one of the three Bataclan gunmen, all of whom died that day. As police approached Samy and fired at him, his suicide belt exploded when he fell. 

Samy left behind a daughter, Alaa, born in Syria a week after the attacks. And now, Amimour feels he can't move on with his life until he finds her. He feels responsible for her — she's just a child, and he doesn't want her to get caught up in the trail of harm caused by Samy's actions. 

As Amimour's life and family unravelled in the wake of the Paris attacks, he struggled deeply with guilt and shame while trying to understand the path that led his son to take part in the deadliest peacetime attacks in France's history. 

When Amimour talks about the events of that November night in 2015, it's clear he and his wife, Mouna — Samy's mother — still live with immense grief and pain. 

A vow to find his granddaughter

In the years since 2015, Amimour has been driven by one objective: to find the granddaughter he has never met and bring her home. 

The documentary Finding Alaa follows Amimour as he takes the initial legal steps in 2019 to locate the child in Syria.

Information about Alaa isn't easy to come by. But Amimour pieces together details about his granddaughter and her whereabouts and well-being, which prompts him to travel to Syria to help her. 

But the path to Syria is perilous and blocked at many turns. 

In July 2022, bittersweet news arrives: Alaa has been repatriated to France, her whereabouts unknown. She is safe, but Amimour still isn't able to meet her and has no idea when that might happen. 

While Amimour was searching for Alaa, he became friends with a man named Georges Salines, whose daughter, Lola, was killed in the Bataclan attack. They're part of a group that brings together loved ones of victims of extremist attacks and the families of the perpetrators — both determined to stop the tragic events from further dividing society. 

Finding Alaa is the story of one man's search for his granddaughter. But it's also a story of loss, guilt, of the shattering effects of violent attacks on families and society, and the search for reconciliation by those left behind.

Finding Alaa was co-commissioned by CBC and BBC.

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