A young American couple believing that ’evil was a make-believe concept’ took a year-long trip around the world, but the route ended fatally as they were stabbed to death by ISIS terrorists in Tajikistan near the Afghan border.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, 29, left their jobs last year and decided to make their trip. Austin was a vegan who worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in the Georgetown University admissions office.
In June 2017, on his personal blog, Austin 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.”
Their trip lasted 369 days, included routes from the southernmost tip of Africa in Capetown, South Africa, to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and finally Tajikistan, where they were killed along with two other cyclists, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands.
While in Morocco, Austin wrote:
You watch the news and 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. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.
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—it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.
Austin also had some contemptuous words for President Trump:
On the television across the room, Al Jazeera plays softly. Donald Trump has just announced his plans to move an embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Muslim world is visibly upset. Leaving Rabat a week earlier, we’d pedaled right by a massive peaceful demonstration against the relocation. The television broadcasts footage of protests just like that one stewing up all across the Maghreb, the Middle East, and beyond. As a clip plays of a sullen Trump waddling across the screen, I do my best to disappear into the soft plush of the couch cushion behind me. But American as we may be, no one here seems to mind.
Then, on July 29, 2018, while they were riding their bikes with two other cyclists in Tajikistan, five men got out of their car and stabbed all the bicyclists to death.
According to the New York Times, a driver recorded a clip with his cellphone in which one can see that the men’s Daewoo sedan first passed the cyclists and then made a sharp U-turn. It doubled back, and aimed directly for the bikers, ramming into them and lurching over their fallen forms. In all, four people were murdered. Mr. Austin, Ms. Geoghegan and cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands. Two days later, the Islamic State revealed a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill “disbelievers.”
CBS News added, “ISIS followed an initial claim of responsibility in print with a video showing the five purported attackers pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”