A cab driver from Dagestan, two weeks ago, on Nowruz, was telling me about the beautiful hospitality his people exhibit during the holiday celebrations - you can enter anyone's house, he said, and you'll be offered all the food and drink there is in the house - and there's a lot! - and you'll be treated like a king, even if you're a stranger. And Moscow, it's such a tough city, he added. I said it was a pity that there was so much fighting and hatred in the Caucasus region, a pity it wasn't safe to travel there, and he replied that there wasn't any fighting whatsoever. Right, I thought.
"Muslim people are very good, aren't they?" he asked, after I told him about our trips to Istanbul, the regular escapes for warmth and friendliness. I hate generalizations, but he was so cheerful and so homesick that it seemed wrong to go into my usual mantra: "There are good people everywhere - but, unfortunately, there are as many assholes everywhere as well, if not more." So I just said that I had many Muslim friends - and that I loved them all.
And five minutes later, by the end of our ride, all of a sudden, he was fuming about how amoral people in Moscow were - how you always saw young women smoking and drinking beer in the street here - a totally unacceptable behavior, blah blah blah. I laughed it off, sort of, saying that I, too, couldn't understand how they could drink that beer outside in such cold.
I've been thinking about this cab driver on and off this whole past week. Somewhere along these lines: "И эти люди не разрешают нам ковыряться в носу?" And these people aren't allowing us to pick our noses?
But he's probably as shocked as anyone else right now...
[...] A local official in her native village of Kostek said Ms. Abdullayeva attended school there for six years, then moved to a larger city a few years ago. The official, Aida Aliyeva, said in a telephone interview that Ms. Abdullayeva was raised by a single mother who traded goods at a local market.
Teachers in the village remembered Ms. Abdullayeva as a promising student who recited poetry in local competitions, she said.
“People are in shock here, they say it couldn’t be true,” Ms. Aliyeva said. “We are honest workers here. We think that the city must have had some influence on her, because we don’t have anything like that here.”
“She is a child,” Ms. Aliyeva added. “Such a quiet, calm little girl. In all honesty, I don’t know what to say.”
An official at Dagestan’s Interior Ministry said it was not uncommon for militants’ wives to act as accomplices, and some were members of hierarchical women’s organizations linked to the insurgency. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that it was not difficult for militant groups to recruit teenage girls in a region with more women than men.
“The girls say, ‘Here is how you will live, and a man will always be beside you,’ ” the official said. “There is some romance about a man with a gun, with an automatic weapon. They make the fighters into heroes, naturally. These girls aren’t thinking straight, at 17 years old.” [...]