Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Gay girl in Damascus: A taboo ignominy feeding to a white fantasy

Written by on . Published in Syria - an outcry for democracy on , .

Biographical blog describing life in Syria amid the current political instability, supposedly written by a struggling gay woman has been revealed to be a hoax.

Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari a 25-year-old, half-Syrian, half American lesbian living in Damascus documented her life in a blog entitled “Gay Girl in Damascus”, dating back to February this year. This controversial, nonconforming, all-inclusive blog covered details of Amina’s professional and personal life and gained worldwide readership these past months in accordance with rise in her outspoken critique of the Syrian government and of her apparent valiant virtual activism for homosexual rights in the middle-east. She through her writings was closely followed by news groups and was even given heroic titles by western press, who like they always do best, fed onto the crippling idea of a discriminated and besieged young women from a third world nation.

Rest assure though that this particular damsel in distress was actually the fabrication or fantasized expression of a forty-year-old American man studying in Scotland by the name of Tom MacMaster. Tom through Amina’s internet disposition tried to resolve his gender (read identity) crisis and vented out his political and social opinions and gained ever-increasing social media fame, along with the sympathies of the concerned international news agencies who quickly took to his/her side. It’s still perplexing to me how no one from any associated medium that interacted with her checked the credibility of Amina’s existence. In circumstances like these I can’t help to speculate that once one generates foreign interest and leads plight to an already  divided unstable Muslim nation, popularity and credit are instantaneously awarded by the west. To this you add the tension of certain political bodies she called out in her blog and you have yourself one virtual lady that’s going to get alot of attention and reaction.

In an extremely intense situation like this, disgruntled un-orthodox reporters from all around were just waiting to jump on the Syrian government for one wrong move. It was somewhat expected by them that as done before in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, the Syrian officials would also try to bully their way to stop people like Amina from speaking out against inviolable issues such as gay rights or even democratic political aspirations for that matter. They were right (or so they thought) and so when the news broke out of Amina’s kidnapping, through her own blog from someone claiming to be her cousin, it didn’t take time for all her global fans to point fingers straight towards the government. The viral certification of the cousin about apparently seeing members of President Assad’s Baath party only went onto further confirm all reservations.

With this distressing bias came media frenzy or simply drama as I call it, with activists, reporters and members of the civil society pouring out in large numbers demanding the release of Amina. The exaggerated hype and false accusations by the international community towards the Syrian government only added to deter the situation and all of this is inexcusable. The cut-throat, misinformed bloggers and activists even went onto flood the viral community to condemn the act and launched many online protest campaigns. The truth about Amina’s biography or illusory novel finally came out when Tom MacMaster the alleged lesbian victim himself unraveled the story on his blog and admitted that he indeed was the “Syrian gay girl”.

Since the news broke out with all the correct facts, many have expressed their anger towards the author and accused him of trivializing and/or even harming their cause. But taking in all the considerations the entire responsibility certainly cannot be lamented on the fraudulent. It’s not new that someone carried out a fake profile on the internet and so creating the contour of Amina is somewhat general over the global-virtual-village. See If I were to take Tom’s case up in high court I’d just plea insanity for him, keeping out of course his feat for articulating pathological lies while playing out his eccentric fetish online. On the other hand, the ones I would want to see chastise are the international press reporters who so proudly embellished a media circus around this story.

The issue lays on the cohort actions of the international press and the western states that are almost always ready to pick and poke at the internal issues of other nations. They hardly miss any opportunity to denounce adversary nations and so when sensitive cases like homosexuality in Muslim countries comes on the table, the credibility of the story is hardly important to them. The international community and the western media in their pursuance of providing deliverance of protection to professed victims like Amina, go onto appalling and unimaginable measures to compel the populace towards their favored direction. The unethical maligning led by these so called liberators crossed all boundaries of leadership, government and religion in Syria, which is very alarming. BangPound, one blogger who investigated the story, wrote on Twitter:“There is no positive side effect of the Amina hoax. It did not bring attention to Syria. It brought attention to a white fantasy.”

Now much like Syria, Pakistan with all its political unrest and social turmoil is also drowning in a sea of risks and dangers as media credibility and accountability are tampered with timelessly. The future of reporting and more importantly reliable reporting has no doubt been opened to a serious threat, as dozens of Amina’s appear soundlessly on the internet to try to shake the political and/or religious system misunderstood by them. The influence of money and power has as it has done with other nations trickled into our system and is moreover endangering our few unswerving sources of news reports which is highly alarming.

In the end to safeguard Pakistan, Syria or another nation’s prospect of responsible journalism we need to unite in all ways to resist and fight against these depraved foreign conspirers and the best way to do this is to prioritize the need for trustworthy and transparent news.  People like Macmaster with uncanny personal objectives will always try to the best of their ability to enlighten western audiences with lies and disillusions, while unreliable media personals further draw attention to the deceit. In situations like these credibility and accountably are something that should at no cost be sacrificed, even if the title of human rights preservation is cunningly used to conceal the true motive which is to threaten the security and sovereignty of weak countries.


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Aown Kaz Twitter: @aownkazSyed Aown

Aown (read "On") is a young activist from Lahore, Pakistan whose passion is based on international affairs, concern is based on environmental degradation and his work revolves around community uplift. He's currently the youngest employee at WWF-Pakistan and is also the youngest person to join the National Council of Environmental Journalists in his country. Previously he's done projects with UNICEF HQ and has also participated as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly sessions in 2009. He continues his activism by spreading awareness about global issues facing the youth in Pakistan and beyond.