Young Tourists Killed by Muslims in Tajikistan

August 24, 2018
Jay Austin.

About 60 miles to the south of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, in central Asia, one Dutch and one Swiss and two American tourists were killed on July 29, 2018.

Two other tourists, one Swiss and one Dutch, were wounded during the same attack, and a French tourist escaped unharmed. The young travelers were following the Pamir Highway between neighboring Kyrgyzstan and the southern Afghan border of Tajikistan. They are doubtless victims of the Islamic State.

The two Americans, Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29 years old, were known online for their blog and the social networks on which they described their adventure. They had quit their jobs in Washington, D.C. to begin their travels in Europe in July 2017. Both were government employees; he worked for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and she worked at the Georgetown University admissions office.

Their travels were indeed full of wonderful encounters. In June, a Kazakh stopped his truck, greeted them and offered them ice cream bars. A few days later, in a prairie where they had pitched their tent, a family showed up with string instruments and gave them an open-air concert. Shortly after, two girls offered them a bouquet of flowers on the top of a hill in Kyrgyzstan. “You get a feeling of wanting to give back, not just to this person who has welcomed a stranger into their home, but to the wider world,” wrote Jay Austin. “You become someone who wants to welcome others into your home. You become a merchant in the gift economy.”

But the 359th day of their journey around the world proved fatal. After they joined a group of European bikers in southern Tajikistan, a sedan passed, them, then did a U-turn and headed straight at the group, running over their fallen bodies twice. Four died, including Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, and two were wounded.

Two days later, ISIS claimed they were behind the attack and published a video with five men resembling the portraits released by the Tajik police. But the local authorities refuse to believe this claim and suspect another terrorist organization, the “Islamic Renaissance Party”, that has been forbidden in Tajikistan since 2015. This party has always presented itself as a peaceful opposition force and vigorously denies any involvement in the attack.

In the United States, certain analysts quoted by the website Pluralist, believe Austin and Geoghegan just got “unlucky”, since experts on the region have explained to the Washington Post that “central Asia is generally quite safe”. We now have our doubts.

Other observers have called the tragedy a “cautionary tale about not just the perils of travel but also naivete in general”. They denounce “an overly generous understanding of human nature” that is “behind much of today's progressive movement, including calls to radically scale back enforcement and policing.”

In France, Boulevard Voltaire sees in the episode a “sorry generation” “blissfully indoctrinated by inoculation from its earliest childhood with left-wing globalist propaganda.”

One might also see them as generous young people, full of energy but too far from the Church too direct their actions towards God. And above all to understand that man is indeed full of beautiful aspirations but that without the sacraments and the life of God, that is to say, the state of grace, he is too weak to fight against the temptations of the devil. Original sin and its consequences for human nature are a sad reality.