Iraq riots hamper return of Calgary girl in parental kidnapping case

Violence in Iraq is hampering efforts to get a 12-year-old Calgary girl back on Canadian soil, more than a year after her father took her on a trip overseas and left her with relatives — allegedly in breach of a family court order that dictated the girl be returned to her mother.

Girl's father, Ali Al Aazawi, charged with parental child abduction, international kidnapping

Lawyers and Global Affairs Canada are working to secure the return of Zahraa Al Aazawi, 12, who was allegedly kidnapped by her father and taken to Iraq. On Thursday, he was granted bail. (Calgary Police Service)

Violence in Iraq is hampering efforts to get a 12-year-old Calgary girl — who is the victim of an alleged kidnapping — back on Canadian soil.

Zahraa Al Aazawi's father, Ali Al Aazawi, is charged with international kidnapping and parental abduction.

In June 2018, Ali Al Aazawi took his daughter on a trip to Egypt and then brought her to Iraq, where he left her with the child's stepmother and aunt, allegedly in breach of the family court order that dictated the girl be returned to her mother in September 2018.

Al Aazawi, 38, was in court in Calgary on Friday in connection with his civil contempt application. It was dismissed by Court of Queen's Bench Justice David Labrenz, who found the father complied, to the best of his ability, with an order detailing steps to be taken to get the girl back to Canada.

Zahraa's mother, Zanaib Mahdi, hasn't seen her daughter in 16 months. She attends every court appearance and is often in tears.

Labrenz called the situation "tragic."

Zahraa in Baghdad's red zone

Friday marks the fourth day Iraqi security forces have fired live rounds and tear gas in efforts to disperse protesters who are demanding job opportunities, improved services and an end to corruption.

During the Calgary court appearance, Labrenz heard that Zahraa is living in Baghdad's "red zone," one of the areas in Iraq where dozens of people have been killed in recent days in violent anti-government protests.

Global Affairs Canada, which is trying to help bring the girl back, won't send Canadians into the red zone.

The mother's lawyer, Teresa Reilly, said if a family member can get Zahraa to the airport, which is in the green zone, a flight can be purchased. 

Earlier this year, another judge ordered Al Aazawi to take certain steps to facilitate the girl's return to Canada.

So far, he has disclosed the location of his passport and his daughter's passport. He has also told authorities his daughter is living with his wife and his sister in Baghdad and has signed a travel consent document.

Although Al Aazawi is no longer in custody on his civil matter, he is being held on the criminal charges, though defence lawyer Tonii Roulston intends to seek bail for her client. A date for that hearing will be set next week.

No trial date on the criminal charges has been set.


Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.