Blogger Alyssa Lindley Kilzer writes that she knew the Tsarnaev family well, because she received facials from the suspects’ mother over a four-year period. According to her description, the family gradually became more devout practitioners of Islam over time:
Between 2008 and 2012 I got to know her pretty well. During those 2-3 hours I spent a lot of time asking her about her personal life and her family. (I’m a writer and tend to ask people exhaustive questions about their personal lives, especially as interesting a character as this.) The burka shouldn’t have surprised me so much, because she had become increasingly religious while I was in college. She often mentioned Allah, and the lessons of the Koran. “Allah will reward him,” she said once about my brother, when I told her that my brother and mom were close, and that I thought my brother would take care of my mom later in life. She started to refuse to see boys that had gone through puberty, as she had consulted a religious figure and he had told her it was sacrilegious. She was often fasting. She told me that she had cried for days when her oldest son, Tamerlan, told her that he wanted to move out, going against her culture’s tradition of the son staying in the house with the mother until marriage. She started saying things like, “Don’t worry, there aren’t men in the house today,” when I asked if I could use the bathroom, which I thought was kind of funny at the time, since I didn’t mind if there were men in the apartment or not.
The mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, believed that 9/11 was an American conspiracy, as did at least one of her sons:
In my last year of college I was getting a facial from her, and asking her about why she had originally come to the United States with her family about eight or ten years previously. She told me that she and her husband had been lawyers and political activists in Russia. They had fled the country after “something that her husband did.” Her daughter had recently been divorced at this time, and her daughter’s ex-husband had taken their child to Russia, refusing to return him. Finally the child was returned. When my mom asked Zubeidat how they had gotten the child back, she told her that “her [Zubeidat’s] husband was crazy” and everyone knew it. When he threatened the daughter’s ex-husband’s family, they returned the child. During this facial session she started quoting conspiracy theories, telling me that she thought 9-11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate muslims. “It’s real,” she said, “My son knows all about it. You can read on the internet.” I have to say I felt kind of scared and vulnerable when she said this, as I am distinctly American, and was lying practically naked in her living room.
While Zubeidat was very good at giving facials, I can definitely say that her increased religious zeal and offensive political suggestions about 9-11 in part influenced my decision to not return to her home since January 2012. While my mom at times showed skepticism about Zubeidat’s trustworthiness, my sister and I both thought she was a nice woman. When my mom called me earlier today, telling me about how she had seen the picture of Dzhokar this morning and called the FBI, I couldn’t believe it. When I read online that she had left for Russia a few months ago, my first reaction was to think that she might have known about the attacks her sons were planning. Articles online suggest that she is in Russia because of her husband’s poor health. I know that her husband often went to Russia without her, and for extended periods of time. She was also very close with her sons and showed many signs of strong political leanings herself. I have since heard that three people have been arrested at 410 Norfolk Street, and a bomb found there. I honestly still can’t believe it. Her sons actions are atrocious beyond words and I hope that any knowledge I have about the family can help investigators get to the bottom of these terrorist actions. My prayers and thoughts have been with the victims in Boston and I also pray that Dzhokar is found soon and prosecuted for his actions.