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A Gay Girl in... Edinburgh?

As days go by, more and more details emerge on the backstage workings of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog, the author of which was ostensibly “disappeared” in Damascus last week.  The website Lezgetreal, which played a key role in the establishment and early fame of the blog, published the two IP addresses from which “Amina” logged on to the site  (h/t commenter Louise). The same address was found by Googlesome readers to have been used in the editing of several Wikipedia article, including one on an incident at Edinburgh University involving Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khali, another on Martin of Tours, which could mean the author is a politically active Medieval History student at Edinburgh.

What’s more, discussion on Lezgetreal  notes that various comments exploring the true identity of Amina on her own post get deleted, which can only mean someone is monitoring the blog and removing unwanted content. Another user notes that a certain reader of AGGID who defends Amina states to have studied medieval history and that English is not her first language.

So it may well mean that the author of the blog is flustered and alarmed but is (thankfully) alive and well thousands of miles from Damascus.  Quite possible. Does it invalidate the blog and all its stood for? Well, for the meantime, I myself prefer to go with the Guardian’s Brian Whitaker. Whitaker reminds us of the Iraqi blogger Salam-Pax, who was widely suspected to be a fraud but turned out to be completely real, and observes:

What can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that the writer is a westernised gay Arab, probably female, and familiar with Syria – I really don’t buy the idea, suggested by a friend the other day, that the writer could turn out to be “Fat Man in Kansas”. Whether the writer has been blogging all the time from Damascus, I’m less sure about. It’s possible, but I can see nothing in the blog to prove or disprove that.

[…]

But let’s consider another possibility: that the writer, who had originally only intended to give her thoughts on life as an Arab lesbian, decided that with all the media attention and worsening events in Syria, it was getting out of hand and the time had come to stop, and perhaps even go into hiding.

One option would be simply to cease blogging, but by that stage she was too much of a celebrity – people would have noticed and started asking questions.

Option two: announce that she was giving up blogging or leaving the country – “personal reasons”, etc, etc. That, too would have generated speculation and in the midst of the uprising might have looked defeatist.

Option three: go out with a final dig at the regime by pretending to have been arrested. Again, she must have been aware that there would be consequences, though not perhaps on the scale that has actually happened.

I don’t like suggesting that this might be the truth but, as others have said, in the light of all the circumstances a pretend arrest is a possibility that has to be considered.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Dear Dimi, I am afraid we will get many hoax concerning Syria.This is why I prefer not to take any side for the moment, waiting for the truth such as this one to erupt.

      Good work.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Louise

      One of the reasons I’m interested Dimi (apart from my shock at this seeming to be so close to home) is because I’ve had the experience in another web community where we were targeted by someone writing movingly and beautifully who pretended to have experienced war crimes in a particular country which pulled all our political heartstrings. They then went on to pretend to have a fatal illness (perhaps as a way out, when they saw it had gone too far) and in the meantime invented a myriad of sockpuppets, fake blogs etc, to back up the story, to defend her, if she was attacked and also to attack others. It was a semi-politicised version of ‘Munchhausen by internet’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munchausen_by_Internet

      It had damaging real life effects for people who tried to help and badly corroded trust online on that site. But the hallmark of the activity was the sockpuppet collective – fake relatives and friends to vouch for her and other fakes to attack doubters. I remember Salam-Pax too and unless I misremember really badly, I’m absolutely sure there was nothing like a sockpuppet collective of fake identities around him. We might perhaps hypothesise that this could be a key difference between a real (honest) blogger in deep cover and a fantasist using the cover of ‘being deeply under cover’. Fantasists can do their research really well into the country/situation they choose for their drama, like a good journalist or novelist, but their overwhelming desire for sympathy and validation can give them away.

      They also, as they are doing it for drama and validation, monitor what is being said about them online by others and often send their sockpuppets/fakeIDs into battle for them to attack those who doubt them – so it might be worth keeping an eye out for that.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Fools for Hasbara

      This comment has been edited

      .
      Amina Arraf’s first netlog from 2007- before she became the Syrian lesbian girl and started posting fake entries with another persons FB photos- has her as being from Georgia, USA.
      Her blog is written completely in HEBREW and makes clear she is JEWISH.

      http://he.netlog.com/aminaarraf

      Reply to Comment
    4. Louise

      Electronic intifada have just nailed it:

      http://electronicintifada.net/blog/ali-abunimah/new-evidence-about-amina-gay-girl-damascus-hoax

      ‘She’ is a straight married couple with the bloke from Georgia USA, (now living in Edinburgh) and his wife is a PhD student in Syrian studies at St Andrews (and not Syrian either).

      It looks like a political version of munchausen-by-internet with the same escalating drama and use of sockpuppets and fake personas. It’s incredible the amount of the effort and research and time people put into these personas which is part of what gives them their power. Occam’s razor would make you think that such a web of obsessive deceit must be too far fetched and there must be a simpler explanation, and that you’d have to paranoid and loony to doubt so much ‘evidence’ but that’s precisely what’s going on.

      Almost every internet community of any size and age has seen one of these people. My partner remembers encountering one for the first time in 1983/4 in the first online gaming community. The famous case that showed up at Metafilter was Kaycee Nicole. Now they dont just stick to faking cancer… stories of war crimes and secret police persecution do the job just as well ( and they often do kid themselves on that they’re doing it for noble reasons).

      So it’s a very interesting story and an interesting case in asking ourselves how do we distinguish the real-but-undercover from the fakes. Thanks for blogging about this.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Tom MacMaster, the hoaxer who perpetrated the “Amina Arraf” hoax and kept it going from 2007-2011, is a very long term determined anti-Israel propagandist who has devoted a lot of time and energy to writing strategy papers on how to build up pro-Palestinian activism.

      http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=44129428444&topic=7472&post=38967

      Through taking on the false voice of a supposed beautiful lipstick lesbian defiantly but successfully living an out life in Damascus, he was able to write post after post putting out virulently and sometimes anti-semitic anti-Israel myths and lies on which he would have been instantly called and discredited had he written them under his own name.

      http://bit.ly/lYGMSn

      Truly he did understand that “liberal orientalism” could be used for his purpose of campaigning against Israel and Jews. Look at all the references in “Amina’s” blog to “the Chosen”. He used the anti-semitic conspiracy myth of the supposed deliberate sinking of the USS Liberty by the Israeli air force in the 1960s. That would have labelled him an anti-semitic conspiracy theorist. But through “Amina’s” mouth, it was just accepted as part of a Syrian world view that a beautiful young lesbian might have. That’s “liberal orientalism” for you.

      Liberals will accept vile slurs and conspiracy theories from people they believe to be Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian Arabs or Iranians which they would instantly challenge and nail for what they are if they came from white Americans or Europeans.

      This worked very well for him till he got found out. He was really into how to make his sock puppet totally fascinating and credible. He just took it that bit too far.

      All credit to the people, including Electronic Intifada, Lezgetreal and others who didn’t give up on fact checking this blog and finally exposed him.

      The Guardian, by the way, is portraying him as a “Middle East activist”. And keeping very quiet about the fact that its supposed great Middle East Arab expert Brian Whitaker said that he was “virtually certain” that “Amina Arraf” was a Syrian Arab gay, probably female, and he didn’t buy the idea that “she” might be a Fat Man in Kansas. Turned out “she” is a Fat Man in Scotland from Georgia.

      http://www.al-bab.com/blog/2011/blog1106a.htm#syria_gay_girl_mystery

      I would not be in the least surprised if MacMaster and his partner (and supporter in the hoax) Froehlich turned out to be Syrian “assets”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Alan A

      [Amina Arraf’s first netlog from 2007- before she became the Syrian lesbian girl and started posting fake entries with another persons FB photos- has her as being from Georgia, USA.
      Her blog is written completely in HEBREW and makes clear she is JEWISH.
      http://he.netlog.com/aminaarraf%5D

      Yeah, that’s right. A 40 year old American man and his wife have immersed themselves in anti-Israel campaigning, and eventually created a hoax lesbian anti-Israel Syrian persona, in order to serve the fiendish interests of the Jews because … by…. they must have planned to… erm….

      Or, alternatively, you’re looking at an Israeli blogging platform, in which the various standard headings (“Name” “Date of Birth” etc.) are in Hebrew.

      Perhaps Amina was originally going to be a proud out Palestinian lesbian who supported Hamas, or something like that.

      This is Pinkwashing – using a LGBT voice to support an anti-LGBT politics. Actually putting LGBT people in harms way, to that end.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Daher

      Alan A, I looked at the netlog link and everything there was in English, except for the language: òáøéú, which is not at all hard to find given any list of languages, even if you don’t know Hebrew. So I have to ask, why would you say that the “standard headings (Name, Date of Birth, etc.) are in Hebrew?” Help with with that please. Awaiting your response.

      Reply to Comment
    8. WaWee Joe

      Daher, “standard headings” for Amina netlog are in Hebrew and only in Hebrew, see for yourself.

      http://he.netlog.com/aminaarraf

      Reply to Comment