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Many stories come and go. A few stay seared in your mind forever. Such is the story of former hometown girl Alison Azer.
In 2015 I became a first-time grandma. While my daughter was expecting, I followed the tragic alleged kidnapping of Alison Azer’s four children.
Her ex-husband, Dr. Saren Azer allegedly abducted the children in August during a European vacation and spirited them off to Northern Iraq, a dangerous combat zone involving ISIL.
As the months ticked by and the story played out in the media, I felt compelled to help, especially after my granddaughter was born. In my arms I held a small, vulnerable child, an innocent completely dependent on those around her for basic survival.
Alison Azer’s children, from three years to 11, were definitely older, but they too trusted their parents to care for them. Instead they are in a war zone, possibly surrounded by dropping bombs or flying shrapnel.
And there is a pretty good chance they want to return to their warm house, their comforting bed and their mother’s hugs.
As a mother and primary caregiver Alison Azer is now in Iraq attempting to secure the children’s release. She is a very well educated woman with an unfathomably deep well of determination, a core of strong supporters and a few resources at her disposal to carry on the fight.
But like many parents of abducted children by a spouse, she has hit wall after wall throughout the political, judicial and legal systems in obtaining information and support.
One of the best outlets for passing day-to-day news has been social media and Alison Azer’s inner circle of supporters are without doubt media savvy. Through their updates, people continue to care for the children and flag their support.
But what of less media savvy parents with fewer resources and friends to pick up the torch? What happens to their abducted children? Do they just disappear into thin air after the media stops writing about them? Do the RCMP quietly close the case files hoping a worthwhile tip might arrive in the future?
On its website, the government of Canada has posted International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents. In the introduction it states, “Every year, hundreds of Canadian children are wrongfully taken from Canada or held in another country by abducting parents.”
Since the government is aware that hundreds of children are forcibly taken out of the country every year, why the hell are they not tightening exit laws?
All levels of government prattle about the importance of children as the future. The story of Alison Azer’s four children makes me wonder whether governments are self-promoting gasbags or if they’re serious about protecting our children. If so, they’ve got some mighty holes to plug, and the new year is a great time to start.