Apr 17, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori mum continues on to fight to save her abducted children

3 min read
mihi nnw

TOGETHER: Mihi Puriri, Mohamed Azzaoui and their children celebrate Asiya’s second birthday last year.

The birthdays of two of Mihi Puriri’s three children have passed without cuddles from their mum, as she fights a custody battle in Algeria which remains in deadlock.

Alone in a strange land, unable to speak the language and without the rights of a man, it has been two months since the Kaikohe woman saw her children, Iman, 5, Asiya, 3, and Zakaria, 1.

The children are in Mostaganem, a port city in northwest Algeria with their father – former boxing champion Mohamed Azzaoui, 36. Puriri, 33, is in the capital Algier.

A family member says the situation is “very awful and messy”.

“Mihi is doing as well as she can be under the circumstances. It’s terrible for all of us.”

The children are her parents’ only grandchildren.

Mihi’s father lives in Whangarei, her mother is further north.

Family and friendshave set up a websiteand a fund to help the Kaikohe mum with costs.

Website posts urge the New Zealand Government to intervene on Puriri’s behalf.

Some accuse the Government of contributing to her problems after a failedapproach by diplomatic staffended in a standoff.

An online petition asks Prime Minister John Key to speak to the Algerian Governmentand help Puriri reunite with her children.

Foreign Affairs says the Government is continuing to provide consular support.

“There is a legal process when it comes to child custody matters and we have been encouraging Mihi to use the legal avenues available to her to seek custody of her children,” Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

Puriri has opened her heart in her blog:

“In August 2011, I travelled to Algeria with my husband and our three young children. The children have never left. I am now fighting to see my children in a country where I neither speak the language, understand the judicial process nor am I considered equal to men.”

Two of her children’s birthdays have come and gone with no cuddles from their mum. Zakaria turned one on March 11.

Mihi posted a message to Asiya on April 23: “Happy third birthday, my darling! I am writing to you as Mummy can’t see you or talk to you today. Hopefully, one day very soon, I will be able to read this letter to you so you know I was thinking about you on your special day. Inshallah.

“I was so happy, three years ago, to have another beautiful little girl. Iman was such a proud big sister she loved kisses, cuddles and tutuing with your face. Then when Zakaria was born, you tutued with his face even more. We love you so much, and that will never, ever change. Iman and Zakaria are very lucky to have such a clever, cute and caring sister.

“It makes me a little happier knowing the three of you are together. But I know its not the same as having Mummy cuddles!”

Earlier this month she wrote: “So, I have been in Algiers for seven weeks holed up in a hotel, crying. Heaps.

“I cry because I miss my children. I cry because I am so frustrated with the situation that has left me feeling so alone.

“I cry because my daughters wake up every morning and their mother is not there. I cry because I am fearful that my baby has forgotten who I am.

“Mostly I cry when I read the kind messages of support and love from family, friends and complete strangers, many of whom I am unlikely to ever meet.

“This support gives me the strength to keep on going no matter how crap I am feeling,” she says.

“I often think back to my real life, and try to remember if I was so selfless to take the time to care, as so many are doing for me and my children. “I hope I was.”

Mihi says she is grateful, humbled and overwhelmed by support she has received. And she’s relieved she can remain in Algeria and continue the struggle to see her children again.

Azzaoui is well known in the Far North where he trained as a boxer. He has New Zealand citizenship.

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