Friday, July 19, 2013

The Education of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

If you can get past the cover there is a very good story inside on the radicalization of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but judging from reactions to the cover few will read what is inside.  It's not like the Rolling Stone article offers anything really new, but it does provide a compelling story line back to the late 90s when Dzhokhar's parents chose to seek asylum in the United States after they had both lost their jobs in Russia due to Chechan purges.  His father, Anzor, was apparently a well respected investigator in the state prosecutor's office in Dagestan before the purges.  Without a job, he took his family to Cambridge, where he had connections in the small Chechan community.

What follows is essentially the tale of "Jahar," as he came to be called by his friends and teachers, with side notes on Tamerlan, or "Timmy," as they tried to fit into their new world.  For young Jahar it was relatively easy, but Tamerlan struggled and never quite found his footing.  It seems he developed quite a big chip on his shoulder.  He rediscovered Islam sometime around 2009 with an all-consuming passion, which led him back to Dagestan hoping to become part of the ongoing resistance.  He was basically told "no thanks" by the rebels and returned to America with the need to prove himself.  The sad part of the story is the way he appears to have dragged his younger brother into his militant Islamic world, in large part inspired by their mother who had similarly gone through a conversion a few years before.

There are also two daughters in the Tsarnaev family that fall between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar in age.  Mama decided that they too had become too Americanized, and were shipped back to Dagestan and forced into arranged marriages.  The father remains an elusive figure, as you don't know what if any role he had in all this.  It seems the mother was the driving force in the family, having found redemption in Islamicism after decades of struggle and was determined to have her family cleansed, which also included divorcing her husband.

Anyway, it makes for interesting reading and I'm sure more will follow in the months ahead, especially when the trial takes place.

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