Albany Cult Client Offers Different View of Boston Bombers< < Back to
While America was traumatized by the televised explosions, murders, and manhunt for the Boston bombers, 25-year-old "Connie" was recovering from her own trauma in an Athens area treatment center.
Her five-month stay in a Nigerian cult-camp has given her a different perspective on how Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar may have committed to a killing-cause.
"My heart actually kind of goes out for the young guy who, as awful as it is, I believe you have to be totally mind controlled … to do something like this at the age of 19," she said.
"You don't just do something like it for the sake of it."
We interviewed Connie at Wellspring, a cult-deprogramming retreat near Albany, Ohio.
She asked to use a pseudonym as she's involved in an investigation of the organization she was in.
While the wooded retreat shielded her from much of the national coverage during the events surrounding the bombings, she was able to view some television and hear about the latest from her counselors.
The answer to the question of "why" being asked by most touched by the bombings comes easy for her.
At the age of 19 herself she was led to a cult in Lagos by her mother in an attempt to curb her rebellious spirit.
Though that experience was six years ago, she found herself continually depressed by the experience.
That was what led her to seek help from Wellspring.
The grip of the cult leader, known to its followers as "The Prophet," was so strong she said she would have done anything he would have required.
"If he had told me to something … to hurt someone, the thing that's scary is that he had such influence over me," she said.
"Yea I could have done something that I would have seriously regretted."
Though her mother introduced her to the organization, Connie said neither were aware it was a cult.
Still her mother's endorsement may have strenghtened the prophet's hold on her.
"Yea definitely, I grew up in a church environment so I wanted to please her," she recalled.
"I went to boarding school at quite a young age – this was kind of a last straw for mom, she said 'let's go and get healing,' and yea, I do, I wanted to stay and make her happy."
It was only after questioning the prophet, whom she had to call "daddy," that she was expelled.
"When I first came out I spoke to her and her Christian friends that had been there."
"They kind of didn't listen, not because they're awful but because they believed highly in this man as well," she said.
"It's only really now that she realized this was a cult."
Connie said she can relate to the emotions of the younger Boston bombing suspect: 19-years old, motivated by the passions of his brother and now maybe his mother too.
"Of course, it's your role-model and you look up to them."
"When someone convinces you to do something … say blow people up, you only do that if the other person is entirely convinced that they're right."
Connie, who said she was schooled in Arabic and Middleastern studies and did her dissertation on Islam and Shari law, uses her perspective to offer advice on combatting terrorism.
She said it is important to involve imams and sheikhs who understand the Koran deeply.
"It's only through someone's faith that you can try and change them with that faith because it's only the faith that's changed them in the first place."
She said she believes a secular approach will not be effective.
"It has to be a person of the same faith who can convince them through the true words of their own doctrine what is true and what is not true."
"There are definitely ways to combat terrorism," she said but warns:
"It's not through violence, it's through compassion."