A married man vacationing in Istanbul, Turkey, is behind an elaborate internet hoax in which he posed online as an oppressed Syrian-American lesbian blogger who was abducted by government security agents.
Posing as “Amina Araf” on the blog “A Gay Gril in Damascus,” news of the alleged kidnapping quickly became an Internet and media sensation.
On Sunday, the truth spilled out: The gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.
The persona he built and cultivated for years — a lesbian who was half Syrian and half American — was a tantalizing Internet-era fiction, one that Tom MacMaster used to bring attention to the human rights record of a country with severe media restrictions that make traditional reporting almost impossible.
MacMaster, a Middle East peace activist who is now working on his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, posted an “apology to readers” on Sunday, but added, “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone.”
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Apology to readers
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs 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
The sole author of all posts on this blog
MacMaster’s story unraveled quickly after a woman in Britain said the photos on the Facebook account of the blogger known as “Amina Arraf” were actually of her.
Araf had claimed to have been born in Virginia to an American woman and Syrian father, but a State Department investigation was unable to verity.