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Could Damascus blogger be a married couple from Edinburgh?

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.

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    1. There are questions being raised about LezGetReal. I paid for the monthly fees on LGR site via my bank account; and considered myself a part owner with Paula Brooks. My name is in the article that people are referring to “Apology re Amina letter on LGR”. But it is misplaced and should not be there – it seems to me to be a random scapegoat type reference. I resigned my interest in lezGetReal a couple of weeks before the Hoax news broke. I want it on the record that lezGetReal has deleted my comments where I have tried to defend my self and my integrity. They did take down one extremely offensive lie but have left more of the degrading material up. I resigned because of the arguments that resulted when I expressed doubt to Paula Brooks about Amina and her authenticity some months back. This led to the question of the direction of the site which I believed was veering from mission.
      I have proof in writing that Paula Brooks has refused to remove material defaming me from lezGetReal. I plan to post on any site that has a link to LGR about this, that I am not associated with Amina, and that I objected to her presence on LGR, not for the reasons LGR alleges, but because I knew the stories were unauthentic. I told Brooks about this and have the e-mails, witnesses and chats to back this up. Now I am told by reporters that Paula Brooks is not a real person herself and it is blowing my mind. I do believe Paula to be who she says she is. I would like to see if there is proof that I am wrong. If I am wrong then I have been the manipulated subject of a horrible HOAX for the last two years and I simply refuse to believe that. Melanie Nathan

      Reply to Comment
    2. Hey guys, I really need to understand you on this…

      If she’s a girl (real or fictional) helping to bring the attention of the world to the repression of the Syrian governement… why is it SO important to know if she’s “flesh and blood” or a SYMBOL?

      Maybe I’m missing the “legitimacy” point here, but the discussion reminded me of the Trump squad of “birthers”… “Show me Amina’s REAL birth certificate… or GTFO”? :/

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mark

      Laurie is naive and mistaken. It is wrong to manipulate and steal the identities of others. You should know that. What about the resources used to try to find this false person? And did you ever stop to think about the implications to real GLTG individuals and bloggers in totalitarian regimes? You should know better.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Allison

      I got the feeling that Ali Abunimah knew MacMaster and/or Froelicher and his acquaintance led to the suspicions. No evidence, just a gut feeling.

      Reply to Comment
    5. excuse me Laurie..you think its OK to lie and lie and fake numbers and incidents and flame 15000 people’s minds over nothing???..do you have any ethics?..do you know that Syria is heaven for LGBT in the middle east and that despite laws against gay people but no one EVER has been charged or persecuted or assaulted over their sexuality there?
      do you remember WMD?..maybe you think it was OK to fake thoses also

      Reply to Comment