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Lesbian blogger ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ feared kidnapped in Syria

Tuesday, June 7, 2011
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Update, June 12, 2011: Hoax revealed. More here.

Update: The mystery surrounding the kidnapping of a lesbian blogger in Syria deepens as media outlets report they are unable to verify the woman’s identify or the facts surrounding her disappearance. More here.

Amina Araf, an American-Syrian lesbian and author of the blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” has reportedly been kidnapped by armed men in Damascus.

Araf, who is known for her candid posts about her sexuality and open criticism of President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule, has been on the run since security agents in the anti-gay Arab country attempted to detain her weeks ago.

Activist Rania O. Ismail — Araf’s counsin — reported the kidnapping on her blog on Monday:

“Earlier [Monday], at approximately 6:00 pm Damascus time, Amina was walking in the area of the Abbasid bus station, near Fares al Khouri Street. She had gone to meet a person involved with the Local Coordinating Committee and was accompanied by a friend.

“Amina told the friend that she would go ahead and they were separated. Amina had, apparently, identified the person she was to meet. However, while her companion was still close by, Amina was seized by three men in their early 20’s. 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. [...]

“The men are assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia. Amina’s present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in a jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus.”

Araf gained prominence after writing on April 26 about two plainclothes security agents who came to her home to detain her and were argued into leaving by her father.

“We had a visit from the security services: it was late at night, in the wee small hours. Everyone was fast asleep. I woke when I heard the clamor and immediately guessed what had happened [...] they were here for … me …”

Soon afterward, Araf and her father went into hiding, changing location frequently in Damascus, the Syrian capital, reported Associated Press.

CNN said that the claims made on the blog could not be verified and that attempts to contact Araf’s family and officials in Damascus and at the Syrian embassy in London, have failed.

Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, gays are frowned upon by the country’s conservative society and it is rare for gay Arabs to speak openly about their sexuality.

Syria’s human rights situation is among the worst in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. Authorities frequently arrest democracy and human rights activists, censor websites, detain bloggers, and impose travel bans. Arbitrary detention, torture, and disappearances are widespread, according to a 2008 report.

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