The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty may have come as close as anyone to uncovering the real identities of “A Gay Girl in Damascus.” Having crisscrossed the information, they are now certain beyond doubt that the blog was a hoax, and that behind it wasn’t a gay Syrian woman named “Amina Arraf”, but Edinburgh spouses Thomas MacMaster and Britta Froelicher, or someone very close to them.
In their post, Abunimah and Doherty mark out several links between the blogger and the Edinburgh couple, the most damning of which is:
Amina’s” home address is the same as MacMaster’s address
On a private Yahoo discussion group named “thecrescentland” that was run and operated by “Amina” and has since been closed down, the following name and physical address information was displayed, according to a person who was a member of that group:
Amina Arraf & Ian Lazarus
c/o Mr & Mrs Abdallah Arraf-Omari
5646 Crestwood Dr, SW
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
There is, however, no evidence of an Amina Arraf, Ian Lazarus or Mr & Mrs Abdallah Arraf-Omari ever owning or occupying this address.
According to State of Georgia property records, the house at that address has been owned by Thomas MacMaster for many years. On 29 November 2007, MacMaster quit-claimed a share of ownership in the property to Britta Froelicher. MacMaster and Froelicher are the current owners of the property according to State property records.
MacMaster has not only owned the property but occupied it until September 2010 when he moved to Scotland. Evidence of his occupation of the property prior to that date includes invitations to barbecues he issued to friends via Facebook.
The possibility that MacMaster could have rented or lent his home to the “real” Amina is excluded by the fact that MacMaster claims not to know Amina.
Abunimah and Doherty also note that a photo posted by “Amina” was plainly taken from Froelicher’s Picasa account; and go on to repost the Lezgetreal IP hunt reported here and elsewhere yesterday. MacMaster himself strongly denies being the author of the blog, but acknowledges he may have met the author at some point.
Is Amina MacMaster & Froelicher? To my mind, that’s not as clear. While the photo on Froelicher’s Picasa album and Amina’s blog are undoubtedly the same, Amina makes no claim that she took this picture. More to the point, “The possibility that MacMaster could have rented or lent his home to the “real” Amina” is certainly not “excluded by the fact that MacMaster claims not to know Amina.” McMaster may simply be lying: Either for some alterior motive, or to protect someone who is in Syria themselves (using an Ediburgh proxy) or someone in Edinburgh whose Syrian family maybe put in risk by the exposure. The case may be becoming a little clearer, but still appears far from closed.
Incidentally, it’s a little unclear to me why “Amina” would need Letzgetreal help to set up a blog or, indeed, why would she need to access their servers (thus disclosing her Edinburgh IP) to operate a blog on the free-for-all platform Blogspot.com. Any ideas?
UPDATE 23:00: Well, well, well. Never has a pinch of salt been scattered to the wind more quickly, or to more relief. MacMaster has just come out on the actual A Gay Girl in Damascus blog as its sole and only author. A big tip of the old hat to Ali Abunimah and Benjamin Doherty for some first-class journalistic work.