The real person behind the Amina lie: Tom MacMaster.
Last week a post on the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, supposedly from the blogger’s cousin, reported the blog’s author Amina Arraf had been kidnapped by security forces. Other bloggers, including myself, posted to raise awareness and encourage folks to take action. Others who had been following the story and noticed information on the blog that seemed fishy began digging. Now the truth has come out.
Amina is actually Tom MacMaster, a married straight white man from the US. The widely circulated photos of Amina were pictures of Jelena Lecic that MacMaster stole.
MacMaster’s statement on the blog after he was outed is dripping with self-righteousness:
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.
Except that MacMaster misled people for as long as five years, building friendships based on a lie. He misled one woman who thought she was Amina’s girlfriend for six months. LGBT folks in Syria have expressed concern the blog brought unwanted attention to their already endangered community. And the controversy around the blog has distracted from, not brought attention to, the plight of actual prisoners in Syria. I could also see it giving those in power in Syria fodder to say the opposition is fomented by outside forces.
MacMaster went on to write that this experience has shown him “the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.” You mean straight white dudes from the US thinking they need to speak for queer women of color in the Middle East? Seems pretty old school to me.
Before the truth came out MacMaster told the Washington Post:
Look, if I was the genius who had pulled this off, I would say, ‘Yeah,’ and write a book.
In case you were wondering if this whole thing was an opportunistic grab at attention and maybe some cash.