The Brothers

The Brothers by Masha Gessen

Book: The Brothers by Masha Gessen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Masha Gessen
course of talking to people who had known Tamerlan or Mess, however, that I discovered that Tamerlan had also been dealing.
    How was it possible for the adults not to notice that Tamerlan was not so much delivering pizzas or senior citizens as making money selling marijuana, which is what kept him in his flashy clothes? The answer is, there was no one around to notice. The household’s relationship with money had created a mess of debts.The family’s federal benefits were revoked and reinstated at irregular intervals. Unanticipated, sometimes catastrophic medical expenses became a regular occurrence, creating more debts covered by impossible promises. No one was thinking straight about money—or about anything else. Each member of the Tsarnaev family was descending into a separate personal hell.
    •   •   •
    AILINA’S TROUBLES started out small. In eighth grade she began getting into fights, especially with one girl. The school required counseling, and the Tsarnaevs complied. Joanna suggested that instead of going on to Cambridge Rindge and Latin, where the social dynamics might follow her, Ailina apply to a newly formed charter school. She did, as did Dzhokhar, and both were admitted. (Dzhokhar was two grades behind Ailina, but there was no division between middle and high school levels at this school; after he finished middle school, though, he enrolled at Rindge and Latin.) The girl with whom Ailina had been fighting also entered the school, but, much to the relief of everyone at 410 Norfolk Street, she was expelled within a month.
    The summer before ninth grade, Ailina joined Bella on a trip to Washington state to stay with Uncle Ruslan, who had returned from Almaty, and his family. Ruslan’s wife had a younger brother, Elmirza Khozhugov, who was studying at a nearby college. It seemed like a good idea for him to marry one of the Tsarnaev girls. Bella would not hear of it, so this left Ailina. To most Americans, the looming arrangement would have looked disturbing. Ailina was a rising high school freshman, a slight girl with typical American teenage speech and a gaggle of friends from her hip-hop class; she liked to lead people to believe she was Latin American. Joanna probably saw more of the nuance: Ailina was slightly older than her classmates, and by the time of the wedding, she would be around the age her own mother had been when she married Anzor. And unlike their own mother, Ailina and Bella did not have parents trying to force marriage matches on them. Anzor, for example, accepted Bella’s refusal to marry Elmirza—as long as she accepted the fact that she would be allowed to marry only another Chechen.
    As soon as Ailina finished ninth grade, she and Bella traveled to Almaty. Ailina and Elmirza had a big wedding. It is not customary for the bride’s parents to be present at a Chechen wedding, so there was nothing conspicuous in Anzor and Zubeidat’s absence.
    Elmirza and Ailina returned to Washington state at the end of the summer, in time for him to resume college and for her to enroll in a high school program for pregnant teenagers, which by that point she was. In the spring of what would have been her sophomore year of high school, Ailina moved back to Cambridge to give birth to a little boy, Ziaudy; then she returned to Washington. It is not clear when everyone at Norfolk Street became aware that Elmirza was beating Ailina, but by 2008—less than two years after the wedding and barely a year after Ziaudy’s birth—Elmirza was taken into custody after repeated reports of domestic violence, and Ailina and the baby were back in Cambridge. Tamerlan was dispatched to Washington with bail money so Elmirza could leave the country before he had to face trial—and prison time. Ailina destroyed her green card and other documents in fear that Anzor would try to force her to follow her husband.
    In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, Ruslan would publicly condemn his nephews and reveal that he

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