Azer, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, was legally permitted to leave the country with his two sons and two daughters, but an warrant was issued when he failed to return by August 21 as ordered by the court.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Canadian police and Interpol are searching for Dr Saren Azer, a prominent physician and Kurdish activist who disappeared Friday with his four children while on a trip to Germany.
Azer, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, was legally permitted to leave the country with his two sons and two daughters, but a warrant was issued when he failed to return by August 21 as ordered by the court.
Azer's ex-wife, Alison Azer, told the press she has not heard from him or the children in 14 days. The couple separated three years ago and have shared custody of the children.
"I'm living a nightmare," Alison Azer told the Canadian press. "I just felt something in [my children’s] voices. It didn't sound right. I asked them to call me and I have never heard from them again."
Azer’s humanitarian work frequently took him to northern Iraq, where he was well-known as an advocate for refugees. In 2007, Azer founded the International Society for Peace and Human Rights, a group that has sent staff and medical supplies to the camps in Turkey and northern Iraq.
“A Middle Eastern man can be easily and quickly stereotyped in the Western media. We need to hear both sides of the story before we jump to conclusions. Dr Azer is a respected man in the community. I hope he and the children are okay,” said Ava Homa, freelance journalist who interviewed Azer for Rudaw earlier this year.
Azer is a well-known figure in Canada's Kurdish community and he was featured in a promotional video produced by the office of Prime Minister's Stephen Harper.
"The accusation of abduction is coming from Azar’s ex-wife who previously accused humanitarian doctor of terrorism. It took the court several years to realize that was a baseless accusation,” said a source, on condition of anonymity, who is close to the Azer family.
The source said the charges of abduction were made without reliable information.
“You can’t accuse a prominent humanitarian doctor, who put his life on spike several times to treat wounded victims in unsafe and insecure countries, just because his ex-wife says so,” said the source. "It's true that he has not returned his children on the date that he was supposed to but it's too soon to launch such a groundless accusation."
Alison Azer said she fears her ex-husband has taken their children to either Iraq or Iran. She has raised over $40,000 from a social media campaign she launched to bring her children home.
"I am so scared for my children and I have been so scared for three years," she said.
The children are daughters Rojevahn, 9, and Sharvahn, 11, and sons Meitan, 3, and Dersim, 7.
In his last interview with Rudaw, Azar mentioned that he is campaigning to build a hospital in war-torn city of Kobani, in the ethnically Kurdish area of Rojava in northeastern Syria.
Twenty-five years ago, Azer, an Iranian-Kurd, lived in a refugee camp in Iraq during the 1989-88 war with Iran. In 1994, he arrived in Canada and continued his education in Edmonton, Alberta, where he received his doctorate in medicine.