A young American couple who took a year-long bike trip around the world, believing that evil was a make-believe concept, took a fatal route in Tajikistan near the Afghan border, where alleged ISIS terrorists stabbed them to death.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, 29, quit their jobs last year in order 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.
Austin had a personal blog on which he wrote in June 2017, “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, which lasted 369 days, took them from the southernmost tip of Africa in Capetown, South Africa, to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Montengro, Kosovo, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and finally Tajikistan, where they were murdered 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, as they were riding their bikes with two other cyclists in Tajikistan, five men exited their car and stabbed all the bicyclists to death.
The New York Times reported:
A grainy cellphone clip recorded by a driver shows what happened next: The men’s Daewoo sedan passes the cyclists and then makes a sharp U-turn. It doubles back, and aims directly for the bikers, ramming into them and lurching over their fallen forms. In all, four people were killed: Mr. Austin, Ms. Geoghegan and cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands. Two days later, the Islamic State released 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.”
Update: This article originally said the bikers rode through ISIS territory. They were biking through an area of Tajikistan which is “near ISIS territory” according to pluralist.com.