It turns out that the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ is just a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.
Tom MacMaster, who is working on his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is currently on vacation with his wife in Turkey. MacMaster also just so happens to be responsible for the ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog.
The blog, which has attracted widespread attention, chronicles a Syrian-American woman by the name of Amina Abdallah Araf. While highlighting lesbian-related issues during the Syrian protests, things took an interesting turn when “someone” declared on the blog that Araf had been kidnapped on her way to meet with organizers.
(PHOTOS: Scenes from the Syrian protests)
Facebook pages sprung up to help Amina, and pretty soon the media was checking out the story. It wasn’t even certain if Araf herself existed – no one had ever met the blogger, including Amina’s girlfriend. The Wall Street Journal then reported that the photos of Araf actually belonged to a woman named Jelena Lecic in London.
Eventually, several journalists tracked everything down to MacMaster, and confronted him. He finally confessed on the blog yesterday, saying that:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.
I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.
This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.
However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.
July 12, 2011
MacMaster is said to have had extensive experience in the Middle East. According to his brother, he attended Emory University and specialized in Arabic studies for his undergraduate degree. MacMaster has also traveled to Syria and Jordan.