No Peace

Boston Suspects’ Parents on the Run

Anna Nemtsova on how the mother and father of the Tsarnaev brothers can’t find peace.

The message to the parents of the Boston bombing suspects was clear and unmistakable: “pack and go.”

And soon after the phone call from the Chechen authorities Tuesday, a car carrying government officials arrived to accompany the couple out of the republic.

The deportation followed a speech by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, in which he referred to the Tsarnaev brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar as “the worst devils.” “I will never defend them, never say a word in their support,” Kadyrov told a local television station Monday.

In the weeks since the attack on the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded 264 others, the suspects’ father, Anzor, and their mother, Zubeidat, have been on the run—hunted first by reporters seeking interviews and now kicked out of Chechnya, where they had gone to escape the media pack in Dagestan.

And apparently the pressure is getting to the parents.

In a phone interview with The Daily Beast, Anzor said the family hadn’t watched Kadyrov’s televised speech, but that “everything was clear.” Sounding dejected, the father said he felt sick and predicted that Chechen officials would ask them to leave the country.

Zubeidat, who kept cool in front of flocks of reporters while in Dagestan, has been seen crying in public on several occasions after coming to Chechnya recently.

Portrayed in the press as bad and clueless parents, Anzor and Zubeidat have continued to insist that their “innocent sons” never committed any crime in Boston but were “set up by the FBI.”

The parents, who lived in Dagestan, had come to Chechnya for support—and at first it seemed the Chechens were welcoming the Tsarnaevs.

After a press conference the parents gave on April 26, during which the couple complained that American authorities would not allow them to see their son Dzhokhar, who was wounded during the police chase following the April 15 attack, the parents became well known in Chechnya and were often approached by well-wishers on the streets and in cafés.

A group of people even distributed fliers addressed to President Obama in support of Dzhokhar, featuring a photo of him standing next to his mother under a headline proclaiming “innocent.” The fliers also asked for contributions for the parents to help their younger son as they had already suffered a “violent” and “unjustified” loss of their older son, Tamerlan, the fliers said.

The parents told The Daily Beast that they have no money to transport the body of their older son, Tamerlan, to Russia, and a local mosque in the U.S. reportedly refused to give him a Muslim burial. As yet, he has not been buried.

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(Tamerlan died while fleeing police after the bombing attack.)

Last week Kheda Saratova, a Chechen human-rights activist helping the Tsarnaevs, posted a video address from Zubeidat with a similar plea—along with the number of a bank account where her son’s supporters could contribute money.

In Dagestan, reporters are still trying to uncover the story behind Tamerlan’s six-month stay in the region in 2012. Russian officials, including Dagestan’s minister of interior affairs, denied that Russian special forces had any records of Tsarnaev’s visit. However, sources who presented themselves to journalists as members of a key police unit, told several publications that during his stay in Dagestan, Tamerlan established contacts with members of the radical underground.

The parents, who have now gone back to Dagestan, told The Daily Beast that Anzor’s current plan is to wait for his American lawyers, who are coming to the region later this month.

Saratova plans to support the parents, who have not been charged with anything. “I am being attacked for supporting the parents of terrorists. But I see my job as a doctor’s job. I am here when people feel bad—no matter who they are,” she said.