The Republic of Tajikistan, formerly called Tajik, is a country in the Soviet Socialist Republic in central Asia. Originally settled over 2,500 years ago by Iranian peoples, it has been contested historically since then. Today, Muslim Arabs control this land and Islam is the prominent religion in the region.
Tajikistan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the country’s president, Emomalii Rahmon, was elected in 1994.
It would appear that the leadership in Tajikistan wants to embrace western culture. The impoverished country joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace and is actively seeking membership in the World Trade Organization.
However, not every resident of Tajikistan is pro-West. According to Wikipedia, “dissident Islamist militants led by Tohir Yo’ldosh and Juma Namangani formed the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 1998, allying with Al-Qaeda and vowing to unite Central Asia as an Islamic state.”
The economy in Tajikistan depends on cotton and aluminum exports. There is also a thriving black market drug trade with southern neighbor country Afghanistan. International assistance also comprises a major source of much-needed revenue for the post-war nation.
Before the civil war in Tajikistan, the country enjoyed revenue from tourism. Naturally, foreign visitors shunned the bloody battleground during the 1990s. But, due in part to its mountainous terrain, by 2018, the British Backpacker Society named Tajikistan as the #7 best adventure travel destination in the world. Tourists are once again enjoying the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of this Asian land.
But, unfortunately, all is not lollipops and rainbows in Tajikistan for western visitors. Making the rounds of international news headlines is the tragic story of a group of bicycling tourists who were mowed down by a car on July 29, 2018. The occupants got out of their vehicle with guns and knives, and, before driving away, succeeded in finishing off four of the unsuspecting tourists.
These four unfortunates had been bicycling in a group with three other foreigners about 60 miles south of Dushanbe, the Tajik capital when the Daewoo sedan ran them down. The three survivors sustained injuries that required medical attention.
Belgian cyclist Nicolas Moerman arrived on the scene soon after the brutal assault. He reported:
“When I asked what had happened, the first thing someone said was that they had been hit by a car and that the people who had come out had started stabbing them with knives.”
Two of the murder victims were Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, a U.S. couple (both 29 years old). Just over a year ago, in July 2017, each had quit a predictable desk job in Washington, DC, to explore the world while they were still young enough to enjoy it. Austin had a poetic bent and kept a blog. The day before he quit working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, he wrote:
“I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige. I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed.”
Austin also had a very positive belief that human beings are inherently good:
“You read the papers, and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own …By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”
Indeed, Austin and Geoghegan left written evidence that they were welcomed in other places they visited. The problem with their wishful thinking is that 999 people can be kind and caring to outsiders, but it only takes one evil-doer in a thousand to end a life.
In this case, it took five militant Muslims to kill four foreign tourists. In addition to the two slain Americans, one of the murder victims hailed from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands.
Two days after the horrific assault, the Islamic State (IS) broadcasted a video with five men identified as the attackers. They were posed, sitting by a tree in front of the Daesh (ISIS) flag and vowed to kill “disbelievers.”
In the ensuing manhunt, police killed four of the Muslim extremists who resisted arrest. The Interior Ministry in Tajikistan claimed to have arrested one suspect and three others who were potentially involved.
On August 1, 2018, leadership in Tajikistan announced the creation of a tourist police force to protect those brave enough to tempt the odds of surviving a bit of recreation among militant Muslims sworn to murder each and every person of a different faith. Since the attackers didn’t stop to chat up their victims to determine their religious preferences before the intentional and violent attack, we can only presume that the Arabs pulled the race card and assumed that these white people were not fellow Muslims.
Swiss foreign ministry spokeswoman Silvia Muller indicated that the terrorist attack would be noted in Switzerland’s future travel advice for folks considering spending their western dollars in this central Asian country.
Ironically, Tajik authorities had declared previously that 2018 was “a year of tourism.”
That may as may be, but consider the fact that in June 2018, Tajikistani president Rakhmon said that state officials discovered bribing tourists would be branded traitors and summarily fired from their positions of public trust. Evidently, this sort of corrupt and illegal activity goes on regularly enough to warrant this response.
Although tragic, this episode underscores the danger of ignoring the promises – not threats – of militant Muslims around the world to kill all infidels (non-believers). They actually and literally intend to destroy everyone who fails to recognize Mohammed as the True Prophet and representative of God.
Let that sink in for a moment. If you had to choose between your personal belief and faith in Islam, would you recant readily and join the ranks of uppity Muslims who use random acts of terror as a submission tactic?