Black Widows

These are the faces, we are told, of the two young women who blew themselves up on the Moscow Metro and killed 39 commuters.
Picture 1
The woman on the right seems attractive, beautiful cheek bones and the burns to her eyebrows emphasise their lovely line. Their lips are sightly apart and their eyes are sadly closed – not because they are sleeping, but because they are dead of course. We wonder so many things about them: were they mothers? how could they have become so committed to their cause, so angry that they failed to see the humanity of the people thoughtlessly getting off their train on the way to another day at work? or were they heavily pressured into this act, as some news sources are saying about the black widows? In the seventies I remember there was something romantic about the young woman terrorists like Astrid Proll. I also remember the women bombers dolling themselves up to more easily get through the checkpoints in The Battle of Algiers ( but what is happening here? Is this preparing and sending women in to commit suicide just an extreme and cynical piece of sexism from communities who may not hold women in high regard? And we wonder how these photographs were taken, by maybe slightly hardened but still shocked on this occasion police photographers. How could they work out from that mangle of bodies that these two were the bombers? Their faces seem strangely intact for the people closest to the blast. We cannot help but ask whether their bodies were blown in two by the explosive belts they were said to be wearing. What expression, what feelings can we read from these two dead faces? We can only read our own fantasies about them I suppose. There seems a hint of triumph in the woman on the right. The other woman still seems more like a child. I wonder if the coming weeks will bring their stories into the light. I feel a deep sadness for them and anguish for those killed and maimed.