May 13, 2016 - 9:00 PM
VANCOUVER - New photographs of four missing Vancouver Island siblings and an open letter posted in the name of their fugitive father have surfaced on a dedicated Facebook page that the children's mom hopes will lead to a break in the case.
Alison Azer has spoken to RCMP about the recent online posts and pictures of her children she hasn't seen since last August, when her ex-husband allegedly fled to the Middle East.
The photos, which include selfies and video, show the smiling children with their father playing in the park, dancing and romping in bouncy castle, posts Azer called "propaganda."
"The photographs to me mark a moment in time of the children. They are clearly staged," said Azer on Friday from Red Deer, Alta., where she is visiting her sister.
"I think they tell the story of children who are doing their very best to survive a confusing and challenging time."
Azer's children, Sharvahn, Rojevahn, Dersim and Meitan, range in age from three to 11 and are believed to be living in a region of northern Iraq that's embroiled in conflict.
A Canada-wide warrant remains in place on charges of abduction in contravention of a custody order for Saren Azer, a well-known Canadian doctor of Iranian descent. International policing organization Interpol also issued an alert for the 49-year-old father.
An open letter posted to the page on Wednesday is signed by "Saren Azer" and describes the health and welfare of the children.
"We are well, safe and happy at last. For the first time since 2012, when that campaign of terror and madness was unleashed on our lives, we have found peace and we are happy," says the letter, without explaining what campaign he is referring to.
"When that nightmare started my children and I, each in a different way, were scarred and had become ill."
Alison Azer said she first learned of Facebook postings last week. She said police were already informed when she contacted them.
The images, in her mind, are an act of desperation, she said. She noted she has received four other photographs of her children, sent to her by contacts in Iraq, that don't depict her children in the same light.
"Where they look sad, and they look like they haven't been outside for a while and their hair has lost its shine," she said.
"I don't know a single kid who can go down a bouncy castle without a smile on their face."
Azer said she has scheduled meetings with federal government officials in Ottawa next week.
Supporters have also helped her launch a new social media campaign and are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to contact his Iranian counterpart seeking co-operation in securing the children's return.
"This could be the call that frees the kids," Azer said.
An RCMP spokeswoman would not comment on the active investigation, but says the file remains a priority.
A police news release from last August about the case said the children were legally permitted to travel to Europe with their father last summer, but he failed to return them as scheduled.
Aside from the new images, the letter describes a slice of life for the children in the region. It gives an account of how the family rescued a kitten, and also says they cared for two rabbits and a turtle.
But it also turns dark, saying an Australian with many years of army training "is looking to locate us and he might be dangerous."
Azer said her message to her ex-husband is to face facts.
"If Saren wants to break his silence, don't do it in this cowardly, manipulative way."
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News from © The Canadian Press , 2016