EDITOR’S NOTE: Calgary police initially said Zahraa Al Aazawi was 12 years old. The police service said in a news release Thursday the girl is actually 11, turning 12 in a couple of months. This story has been updated to reflect that change.
Calgary police are looking for a child thought to be abducted by her father, a news release said Wednesday.
The Calgary Police Service Domestic Conflict Unit needs the public’s help to find Zahraa Al Aazawi, 11, so she can be returned to her mother.
On June 16, 2018, police said the girl travelled with her father from Calgary to Egypt. She was expected to return to Canada on Sept. 5, 2018, according to a travel agreement between her parents.
Al Aazawi had limited contact with her mother while overseas and has not been returned to Calgary as agreed, police said.
The girl’s father returned to Canada alone on April 4, 2019, and was arrested by police at the Toronto airport, according to CPS.
Police believe Al Aazawi is now in Iraq, possibly with her father’s family.
“Members of Calgary’s Iraqi community are especially being asked to share any information that could help bring her home,” police said in a news release.
Following a Canada-wide warrant, Ali Al Aazawi, 38, has been charged with one count of parental child abduction and was flying to Calgary from Toronto on Wednesday to face the charge, officers said.
The dad could be looking at a three-year maximum sentence, but if the charge is upgraded to kidnapping, he could face five years to life in prison, said Sgt. Curtis McMurphy with the Domestic Conflict Unit.
The father and his family in Iraq are not being co-operative, McMurphy said.
“We have no reason to believe right now that her father or his family would harm Zahraa, so we don’t fear that her safety is at risk,” he said.
Many obstacles stand in the way since it’s an international case.
“We have lots of different challenges such as languages, culture, legal systems, the different legislation within countries,” McMurphy said. “We’re going to have to use different kinds of federal resources.”
Until police know the girl’s location, McMurphy said, it’s hard to put those resources in place and get the help of overseas authorities.
McMurphy said the family is not well-known to police but has “some history of domestic contact.”
“No information is too small; anything can help,” he said.
Anyone with information on the girl’s whereabouts is asked to call police at 403-266-1234 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.