'A Gay Girl In Damascus'
A Gay Girl turned out to be written a bearded American living in Scotland.
|Date||February 19, 2011 - June 12, 2011|
|Interest of||The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army, 'Kong Tsung-gan'|
|Description||A false media personality to create a mood in Western liberal opinion for regime change in Syria|
Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari was a hoax persona created and maintained by American Tom MacMaster. The identity was presented as a Syrian-American blogger, identifying herself as a lesbian on her weblog A Gay Girl In Damascus. The story received a large response on social media, and served to create a war mood in Western liberal public opinion.
While there is no conclusive evidence MacMaster – then working on a Master’s Degree – and his wife – a Ph. D. candidate at the time – were allied with government organizations to foment what was serendipitously timed to the Syrian Uprising, any intelligent individual should peruse the possibility. That the "Gay Girl in Damascus" account began approximately one month prior to the Uprising and ceased operation six weeks after it began appears to be more than a fabled happy coincidence.
McMaster created various profiles for Amina at various social networking sites. He began the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus under the Amina name, where the first entry appeared online on February 19, 2011. The publication, known for its commentary on politics, gender, sexuality, and Syrian culture, became, in the words of Nidaa Hassan of The Guardian, "increasingly popular after capturing the imagination of the Syrian opposition as the protest movement struggled in the face of the government crackdown." The blog's tagline was "An out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on ..."
His blog gained popularity after an April 26 post titled "My Father the Hero", about two security agents who came to her home to detain her and were kept away by her father. She and he were described as going into hiding soon after, changing locations in Damascus.
In May 2011, Katherine Marsh of The Guardian, described the blog as "brutally honest, poking at subjects long considered taboo in Arab culture".
During the 2011 Syrian regime change operation, a posting on the blog purportedly by "Amina's" cousin claimed that Amina was abducted on 6 June 2011. This sparked a strong backlash from the LGBT community and was covered widely in mainstream media. In the wake of the reports, questions arose regarding the possibility that Arraf al Omari was an elaborate hoax. On 7 June 2011, author/blogger Liz Henry, Andy Carvin (a journalist with National Public Radio in Washington, D.C.) and others raised doubts about the identity of the blogger. The photos purported to be of her were proven to be a Croatian woman residing in Britain with no relation to Syria, the blog, or the ongoing regime change in the country. On June 12, Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty of the website The Electronic Intifada conducted an investigation that pointed to a strong possibility that the identity of "Amina" was Tom MacMaster, an American living in Edinburgh. Hours later, Tom MacMaster posted on "Amina's" blog and took responsibility for the blog and the false reports of her capture.
Amina Arraf was reportedly kidnapped by three armed men when she was on her way with a friend to a meeting in Damascus to meet with the Local Coordinating Committee civil war organizers. On the blog, MacMaster posted as "Rania Ismail", Amina's fictional cousin, reporting the event: "Amina was seized by three men in their early 20s. According to the witness (who does not want her identity known), the men were armed ... Amina hit one of them and told the friend to go find her father. One of the men then put his hand over Amina's mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad." Basel is the brother of president Bashar al-Assad.
When the "Gay Girl" disappeared the U.S. State Department was enlisted to locate "her," in deadpan seriousness; of course a 2 minute NSA search would have revealed the whole story as a hoax, but it since it supported the US/UK government wanted impression, there was no hurry to debunk it.
Thomas "Tom" MacMaster is an American citizen. At the time of the blog and its unraveling, he was a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
On 24 June 2011, the University of Edinburgh released a statement, stating they were "very concerned" about the reported activities of MacMaster and would investigate any misuse of university computing facilities: they would also investigate the matter in the context of Edinburgh University's Dignity and Respect Policy and list of Disciplinary Offences.
But documents released by the University of Edinburgh under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act reveal that not only was MacMaster allowed to stay on as a student, but that the university sought as much as possible to gag him while never publishing any results of its investigation. He presently works in US academia.