Sunday, June 12, 2011
"Gay Girl in Damascus" Actually a Man from Georgia [NPR]
Over the last several months, Amina Arraf, a blogger who said she was Syrian-American and went by the name Gay Girl In Damascus, captured the world's attention. Her blog caught on just as the protests against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria became widespread and the crackdowns more violent.
On June 6, it all came to a screeching halt when Amina's cousin declared on the blog that Amina had met the fate of many bloggers in authoritarian regimes: Assad's police had taken her into custody. Whether she was alive or dead, no one knew.
As soon as "Free Amina" groups popped up on Facebook and the State Department began looking for her, the story began to seem a lot like fiction. No one had ever talked to Amina. The Guardian published a profile of her June 7 that included a picture they soon found out wasn't Amina but of a Londoner called Jelena Lecic. The biographical details in her blog posts did not check out. Amina Arraf couldn't be found in any public records in Georgia or Virginia and the names of her father and mother also turned up nothing.
Today, the Gay Girl In Damascus blog ended the mystery, posting an apology that revealed Amina was in fact the work of Tom MacMaster, an American from Georgia whose university records show is in a medieval studies graduate program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.