A young American couple set out on a bicycle journey to show the “evil is a make-believe concept” was killed by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Tajikistan.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geogehan, a couple in their late 20s, quit their jobs in July 2017 in Washington D.C. in order to take a bicycle journey. They wrote in their blog that they intended to enjoy, “more peaceful pedaling through gorgeous landscapes, more sleeping in open fields under clear skies, more quiet sunsets, more friendly people, more adventure and, importantly, more time together too, living life on simpler, more meaningful terms.”
Their trip took them to South Africa through Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Egypt, and Morocco. The couple then rode along the European Mediterranean shoreline and from Istanbul, Turkey flew to Central Asia. They planned to continue toward eastern Asia, Australia, and South America.
On their blog, they claimed their goal was to prove that people around the world were not evil.
“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,” Austin wrote. “By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”
Many blog entries described acts of kindness they experienced on their journey. But in late July, day 369 of their journey, the couple was bicycling two other cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands on a country road in Tajikistan when a car made a u-turn before intentionally running them down. The occupants of the car then got out and stabbed the victims. All four were killed.
A few days later, an ISIS-affiliated media outlet published a video of five men pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi while claiming responsibility for the attack. The men, who speak Russian, sit under a black Islamic State flag and refer to each other by Arabic names.