The Gay Girl in Damascus May Be Fake, But Her Story Isn’t

It’s  true, I think, that there’s a person with a name and a face somewhere in the world who’s been writing “The Gay Girl in Damascus,” but we know now that whomever was writing it wasn’t who she said she was.

She was also possibly blogging from Scotland (though she explained away a Scottish IP address by saying it was re-routed there for her safety).

According to a blog post allegedly posted by her cousin three days ago, blogger Amina Abdallah Araf had been kidnapped by three armed men from the Syrian government. There is no independent confirmation that this happened from anyone besides whomever wrote that blog post.

Then a woman in London came forward saying the photos circulating of the abducted woman are of her. Her name is Jelena Lecic and Amina actually kept over 100 photos of Lecic on her Facebook page.

Amina’s girlfriend, who lives in Montreal, admitted she’d never spoke to Amina on the phone, their entire relationship had been carried out via email. Nobody has heard her voice. The Guardian‘s interview with Amina was conducted via email. Excerpts of her blog were found published elsewhere a few years earler.

There’s no record of Amina’s family. The U.S hasn’t been able to verify her existence or citizenship. Voting records don’t turn up family members.

NPR’s Andy Carvin kept up on the story all day.

I admit, as ridiculous as it is to compare Amina’s story — which we may never know — to the story of an ex-friend of mine/ours who I’ll call “X” who I met through my blog and who befriended all of us and invented a fake life which involved lots of tragedies and giving us lots of stuff — the last 24 hours of gradual information-gathering felt alarmingly familiar. Last night when Sarah mentioned that it was possible the blog was a hoax I felt right away that it was. There are only so many ways to evade revelation of any big lie.

She avoided face-to-face contact with unverified excuses (Skype video chat doesn’t work) or with frightening/tragic yet totally believable stories to explain strange behavior (she was being followed to her Guardian interview) and she described her life circumstance as such that any erratic behavior would seem justified, she never really verified her existence, and passed off photos of someone else as being her. Then when she couldn’t take it anymore, she made up a story too horrific for anyone to dare second-guess and made her exit strategy.

We trusted the Damascus Gay Girl because we wanted to. She’s brave, she’s heroic, she’s using the relative privilege of her American citizenship to oppose the plight of America’s favorite sympathy cause, Oppressed Muslim Women in the Middle East! And on top of that, we can’t imagine why any human being would do something like this. She seems so level-headed in her writing.

This is unlikely to win anyone a book deal without a public mud-smearing, anyone with their head on straight would know lying isn’t ever the best way to handle a sensitive political issue.

So why?

So what happened, why would she do this?

I think sometimes people are addicted to being worth it. To having the best story, to being praised and appreciated for doing a genuinely good thing, even if it’s a lie and you’re not really doing it. Anyone constructing a lie this massive has lied before, she’s likely spent her life creating and escaping various webs of lies, leaving destruction in her wake — this time she could be a part of something worthwhile. It’s hard to believe anyone would lie to steal the feeling of being a good person, usually we imagine people lie for money, or sex, or to save their own lives. But they do it all the time, right?

Or people are addicted to the praise and positive attention — and like a gambler tossing more onto the table, as the attention increased — she just couldn’t stop. Maybe she never expected it to get this big. Though Lecic says she doesn’t know anyone by that name, it seems like whomever did this probably knows her, although it could be traced back to an identity thief a year earlier.

But we do have an opportunity here to use the increased attention this investigation has inspired to educate ourselves about the truth of the situation in Syria and do what we can to help.

I’m not gonna lie I knew absolutely nothing about the situation specifically in Syria until this whole blog controversy came up. Something about it felt odd to me from the get-go — her blog — so I didn’t really read it until after the alleged kidnapping. I’m not certain this story has been entirely a distracting waste of time.

 

So I mentioned “X” earlier, my friend who lied. After we’d busted a handful of X’s lies/tragedies, including lying about her mother’s cancer and eventual death, a friend of both of ours who’d been battling cancer confided in me:

“So, personally, a lot of X’s fabricated issues cut me real deep at the time, there seemed to have been a lot of parallels and timing coincidences that made me really feel for her, because I knew how I felt and thought we were experiencing these things together. I still can’t get my head around how she could want to make up this life so she could feel these things. It was really hard hearing that her mother died of cancer (and seeing the effect of this on X) at the same time that I was/am shit scared that I will die of cancer and how it would affect the people I love.

I think I could give X some really good insight as to how a potentially terminal illness and grief really feels.

And just like you, I don’t take death lightly – and I only wish that someone would tell me that the deaths I have grieved over this last year were all a lie. But some of us aren’t that lucky I guess, for some of us realities are actually reality, tragedies are actually tragic and the unbelievable is actually to be believed.”

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Resources on the situation in Syria:

 

+ Guardian UK: Syria

+ LGBT Rights in Syria

+ Syrian Same-Sex Society Network

SOS Children’s Villages: Sponsor a Child in Syria

Amnesty International: Help Stop the Bloodshed in Syria

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1764 articles for us.

111 Comments

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    To Andy Carvin’s point, there is still a lot of injustice happening in Syria and maybe this controversy has helped shed a little light on it. I know I had no clue. As for the girl pretending to be Amina, we don’t know her circumstances. She may be lonely, suffering from mental illness, liked the attention, considered this elaborate performance art… but if this puts real LGBT activists in Syria in harm’s way, it’s unforgivable. People lie on the internet all the time, but to lie to someone who clearly loved you (girlfriend), to lie to newspapers who seek an understanding of what’s happening in Syria is pretty damn egregious. This is a bad situation. Cringe-worthy.

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    Personally I never followed her blog posts, but she managed to dupe a lot of people. and it’s sad cause I’m sure some kids in places (such as Syria) where homosexuality is still deemed unacceptable were reading them and thinking “gee, if she can do it, I can do it”

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      Agh it is true, I have seen people who are GLBTIQ Syrians / Arabs posting that she inspires them and gives them hope. I feel so sorry for them as they realise a role model was just an elaborate lie.

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        that’s a good point…

        but also (and this might be way off, idk, it just popped into my head) — one of the things i’ve been reading about her blog from other newspapers is that a lot of people were skeptical of her existence from the get-go because she was, in fact, an out gay girl in damascus, which is unbelievable in and of itself.

        Because can they do it? Is “if she can do it, so can I” a safe idea to promote to begin with — especially in light of the fact that it turns out she Can’t do it?

        again i don’t know a ton about the situation there so i hope i’m not sounding like an idiot

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          and if she was an out gay girl in Damascus, it would have been so unusual that her identity would have been verifiable…

          that is a good perspective, I was thinking of it simply in terms of the loss of hope / a role model, but I hadn’t considered the safety implications. From what I read of her blog Amina was at pains to stress her openness was made possible by her family connections and dual nationality, so here’s hoping readers in the ME viewed her as an inspiration in a strictly ‘don’t try this at home’ sense of the term.

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          But the thing is that in a lot of ways her blog only works because it happens in a believable context– a time when many people in countries with restrictive policies on sexuality are starting to use the internet as an alternative space in which one can be “out.” An article from two years ago discusses this phenomenon among gay Syrians: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g1exXPToXhY8l9aLmQTCTD-JPCPQ

          So I don’t think that Amina’s blog was unbelievable per se. If it is a hoax, it actually works because it is believable. And so I don’t think that it would be a bad thing if other Syrians were inspired by it.

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    I have less sympathy for her, notwithstanding the raft of mental health issues she so obviously has. I think a lot of people who followed her are going to switch off from the situation in Syria, because of feelings of hurt and betrayal the hoax caused. A lot of people really looked up to her and cared about her on a personal level, when something like that turns out to be a fabrication, you react to it emotionally and it is hard to look past the betrayal to the bigger picture. And now queer Syrians are in the headlines, which may compromise their safety. And her poor girlfriend. I don’t have any words for how disgusted I am.

    I admire your and Carvin’s effort to keep the international spotlight on those who need it, though.

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      Yeah, this is why I can’t get behind the idea of “this will bring attention to Syria so it doesn’t matter if it’s a hoax!” Hoaxes only bring fleeting attention; once they’re discovered, they end up doing the exact opposite – trivializing the entire issue.

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        i wonder what the fall out will be in regards to independant and autonomous media/blogs. Especially in areas where personal blogs (such as Gaza/Syria etc) have been or often are regarded as reflecting the peoples truth/reported as news. Gah.

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      Is it despicable that someone would do this? Yes, but the thing that hits me with the boy who cried wolf is that people only walk away thinking, “don’t cry wolf when there’s no wolf or no one will believe you and you’ll be eaten by a wolf”. BUT it makes me think, “I’m going to check every time I hear someone cry wolf because they could be eaten by a wolf”. Does that make sense? Idk, there’s still a gullible pat of me that thinks MAYBE. And I’d rather hold on to that gullible part knowing full well that I could be a fool than not feel the sorrow and pain I feel for the real people out there running from wolves.

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        Yeah, but I don’t think it’s a binary… I can not believe Amina’s story but show concern for others in similar positions. If I thought there was a reasonable probability she was real I would be holding on to it. I could be wrong, in which case I will eat humble pie and apologise profusely for being sceptical of someone in Amina’s position.

        I was a reader of Amina’s and when the first allegations of falsehood came in I dismissed them… but after I took a good hard look at the ‘pattern’ of her blog, the writing style of Rania and that she reads more like a facebook sockpuppet, the absence of any voice or video contact with Amina and the false claims about vid skype not being possible, the picture theft, the fact that the names claim to be real but are untraceable, she is ‘out’ but the queer community in Syria have never heard of her, the US embassy has been trying to find her family to help Amina but they haven’t come forward… to me, that looks pretty bad.

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            Collectedprose, that is a very high compliment, thank you. I also like what you have to say, and I look out for your comments around the place. One of my favourite things about Autostraddle is that there is disagreement here, it’s not just groupthink, but it’s respectful and intelligent and I learn from it (with the exception of the occasional troll).

            Um, enough about my feelings… mmmmmm, pie ;)

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            “One of my favourite things about Autostraddle is that there is disagreement here, it’s not just groupthink, but it’s respectful and intelligent and I learn from it (with the exception of the occasional troll).”
            1000% true
            Long live Autostraddle

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    Newsnight reported on this last night, and had Jelena Lecic in the studio, looking a lot like a rabbit stunned by headlights.

    The programme was still reporting the story as a possible kidnapping, with some side-intrigue of privacy infringement/identity theft.

    Unless I’ve missed something here, this isn’t a proven hoax. I feel like this post might be just a tad premature. There’s something weird going on for sure, but until more info comes to light, I’d prefer to reserve condemnation.

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      I was thinking this too. It’s still possible that the whole thing is true and only the name/photos are fake (possibly for safety reasons?), right?

      I did kind of feel like her posts read like fiction, though. Not in a “fake” way so much as the fact that the writing style felt like a novel.

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        I’m sorry, “safety reasons” is not a reason to use photos of someone else if s/he has not given permission. That’s just putting a different person in danger, and Lecic was saying she felt less safe after this. If you want to hide your identity, use an avatar, or photos of someone who HAS given permission.

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          And that’s what leads me to think this is a hoax. I really have trouble believing that the person who Amina says she is would be comfortable with putting another woman in harm’s way in the name of her own safety.

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          You’re absolutely right about that, using someone else’s photos without permission isn’t okay. I should have clarified that I wasn’t justifying the use of the photos, just noting that the photos being fake doesn’t mean the story is fake, necessarily.

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    I thought it could come down to two things
    1. the person writing this was exactly what riese describes or
    2. someone writing their story/collectively writing other peoples stories and using a fake made up person as a form of protection to stump the government into finding out is really writing the blog.

    regardless, like miss muffin said, it has shed a light on the violence and injustices in syria. I’m not sure if this will bring any sort of interference by any country or nato (there’s already enough going on in yemen and libya). these people needed a voice to reach to the outside world, and gay girl in damascus did that for them, even if it was all fake, their voice reached the outside.

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    “She’s brave, she’s heroic, she’s using the relative privilege of her American citizenship to oppose the plight of America’s favorite sympathy cause, Oppressed Muslim Women in the Middle East!”

    I think that this gets at what bothers me about the situation. If the writer of the blog is some Western white person with an idea about how women are treated in the Middle East, the story of a lesbian in Syria is not that person’s story to tell – no matter how much we may need to hear it.

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        im looking at it from this perspective, if i was being ostracized by my government in some way shape or from, i would want my story to be told to the outside to prevent this from happening. I don’t think I would care so much as how it got out. I would care more about who will come help us, who can help us get rid of this intrusive government in order to live peacefully without fear.

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    So it’s more likely that it’s a hoax/lie than not? Makes me feel ggrrruuunnnfffhhh inside.

    The blog made me aware of the unrest in Syria… but nobody wants to be lied to. Anyway, time will tell…

    That X person reminds me of Kristin Chenoweth’s stalker story in her book. Crazy stalker lady lying and stealing gifts for Cheno. o_o

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      I am on a board where someone pulled that crap – he didn’t actually lie about his identity, and people did meet him in person, but he lied about various parts of his identity, like his job and his girlfriend. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I know a lot of people felt creeped-out and violated by it. That’s what X reminded me of; I don’t think GGID is comparable.

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    i’m going to go ahead and make this political.

    i was reading through a few of her posts, one of which was about the recent naksa day protests on the border between lebanon and israel; how israel is terrible, etc.

    i just want to point out that israel is (the only?) country in that region where you can actually be openly gay. tel aviv, in my experience, is quite possibly gayer than new york city.

    in 2009 the prime minister netanyahu spoke out with regret and sorrow in front of tens of thousands of people against the attack on youth gay center bar-noar in tel aviv.

    there are good things happening in the middle east, too.

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        Are you saying that the good things in the middle east are being clouded by the uprisings? The violence, yes, but you think the uprisings aren’t a good thing for Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, and other nations? Or am I misreading you? Because I would say the violent responses to the uprisings are horrifying, but the uprisings themselves are some of the most inspiring things I have ever watched in my life.

        Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1u4WK9ZbvU

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          no no the uprising are great it great that people are standing up for what they believe in. I look up to those people because they are literally putting their life on the line for their rights. It actually makes me a little upset to think they have to go though that while we have the freedom of just having to vote, yet don’t. we get stuck in political apathy way too often.

          I just worded that sentence badly. Tried to shorten it with too much info. I meant everything positive about the uprising and any improvements in the middle east get clouded easily by all of the surrounding violence. You know, everyone knows where they stand and want to change their country for the better; sometimes the message gets lost in all the violence. It’s all a matter of how time. If it stretches out too long, message lost. LIke darfur, it just became about violence.

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      Whew.

      I don’t know if this is the place to be having this conversation, but – people can be queer and not support Israel, and this does not make those people hypocrites. I am very, very, very glad that gay Israelis have some rights. That does not mean I condone all of Israel’s actions (I don’t, at all). Gay rights in Israel are being used by supporters of Israel to try to divert liberal attention away from the human rights violations Israel commits.

      To me, it’s not okay to make gay rights basically a red herring, and a way to frame Israel’s neighbor nations as “barbaric” and backwards.

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      You can be “out” in Israel? Funny, I have a friend in Israel and she’s saying the opposite. Yes, her “gay” behaviour can be ignored, but I don’t think she’d be allowed to be “out” if she chose to. I guess it also depends on what you consider to be “openly gay” – if you can be gay and not be killed/arrested for it, I guess, but that doesn’t mean automatic acceptance.

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        Of course you can be “out” in Israel. Whether or not your direct community accepts you is, like everywhere, dependent upon the values of that community. Secular Israelis in Tel Aviv wouldn’t bat an eye. But walk though a Hasidic neighborhood in Jerusalem wearing pants and holding your girlfriend’s hand an you might get stoned.

        I think what Sarah is acknowledging is the legal rights granted to LGBs by the government. They allow civil unions with nearly all the rights given to opposite-sex marriages. If you get married in another country that allows marriage equality, that marriage is legally valid inn Israel. A lesbian can adopt her partner’s child. You can serve openly in the army. There are anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBs. If an Israeli lesbian has an partner from another country, they can’t be deported.

        These rights and protections are a far cry from those in most other middle-eastern countries, and even, in some cases, from those in the US.

        I don’t mean to draw any other additional political conclusions from all of that, but it’s important to get the facts right.

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          Hmm, alright, I didn’t realize the extent of the rights. All I know was the army thing because, hello, think of how many people would use “I’m gay” to get out of the mandatory conscription if they didn’t have it otherwise.

          On the same note, though, just because there are laws, doesn’t really mean that society as a whole condones it – but that’s a different matter.

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            Again, there was a poll published in Ha-aretz (an Israeli English-langauge newspaper) a few years ago which reported 61% approval for marriage equality in the country. I’m not sure you see statistics like that even in Europe. I’m not sure what your definition of societal approval is, but to me, that’s about as much approval as you see anywhere in the world today. Or, maybe more importantly, a religious culture which preferences heterosexuality but doesn’t believe in depriving other citizens of their rights.

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            Oh wow, I didn’t realize that. I guess her age-group (high school) probably has more to do with her situation than the country’s policies.

            Hmm…not bad, Israel. Not bad at all.

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      Umm, just to add to that, Lebanon is one of the more open minded middle-eastern countries in terms of homosexuality and is often seen as a refuge for Gay Arabs (sadly they can’t really go to Tel Aviv with the politics and what not).
      You can be openly gay there and just like in most countries the larger cities are best. Sure some people will be uncomfortable but that isn’t really new to anywhere.
      The gay club scene in Beirut, I’m told, is comparable with that of Western countries.
      The good is overlooked in the middle-east because it is so outweighed by the bad.

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        I have never been to lebanon so can’t speak from personal experience, but i do have a lebanese lesbian friend (say that ten times fast..) who is definitely not out, when she is there. she has (had?) a gf there and they kept it very very secret. this could though be a case of just having a close-minded family.

        it did sound like it’s the kind of situation where there are gay clubs and things but you keep them very much on the down low. i know she went to school in beirut so i assume that that’s the scene she was referring to. i think she said that for men it was a little bit harder.

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        word Janis.

        Also; while people are focusing on how queer friendly Israel is; was no one else at the/did no one else see the Jerusalem Pride a few years ago?! The march was essentially a 500 metre gauntlet of hostile cops/soldiers, en route we got harrassed by settlers/spat at/punched and kicked , a ‘pipebomb’ was found on the route of the march in the morning and there were anti homo riots in the neighbouring streets. It wasn’t exactly unicorns shitting rainbows.

        Also; if anyone is interested in (the actual) experiences of queer women in the middle east ASWAT is an awesome organisation of queer Palestinian women.

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          and what about the people that were there giving support? you make it sound like it was ONLY protesters. there are protesters to parades everywhere, all the time.

          settlers are not representatives of an entire country.

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            im not at all saying they represented an entire country?! Confused face.
            The march im talking about was in 2007 (yikes im showing my age) the first march after the multiple stabbing of marchers in 2005 by a knife wielding anti-gay. The same year the Israeli trade minister Eli Yishai said that the ‘homosexual march’ is a “vulgar event that offends and violates the sanctity of Jerusalem”…

            Im just not down with the ‘Pink Washing’ of Israel… Yes, in Tel Aviv in secular liberal Ashkenazi communities it’s not ‘unacceptable’ to identify as gay. But I dont think this equates to Israel being a bastion of liberal gay rights in the middle east.

            Ultimately I don’t think that Israels perceived liberalness towards homos should excuse the multitude of human rights abuses committed by the state on a daily basis.

            Not taking anything away from the radical queer community in Israel who rock my socks!

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            i will check out the link later…

            as i understand it, israel aims to protect its citizens first and foremost. if i were a parent and my child and their friend happened to be drowning, i would certainly save my child first even if it meant the friend would have to drown. i would feel like shit i’m sure, but this wouldn’t make me a monster.

            israel wants to exist. anything that threatens this, i see no reason why they shouldn’t do everything in their power to maintain their existence, yes, even if it means ugly things happen for “the other side”.

            i thought it was very powerful when netanyahu recently stated in front of the US congress ” i accept a palestinian state… when will palestinians say ‘i accept a jewish state'”… regardless of who the general you thinks truly should be living on the land, is it not fair that both should have the right to EXIST? the palestinian government will not accept a jewish state/the continued existence of israelis, so why would israel in its right mind agree to their requests?

            i have not served in the army nor do i know the inner workings of the military there but i don’t see how you could say that israel *goes out of its way* to injure anyone who does not FIRST aim to bring it harm.

            i have also been in places like Hevron where i was solicited cheerfully for money to buy little trinkets/palestinian flags and then spat on and called a piece of shit and a bitch when i politely declined. and i don’t even look israeli and/or jewish. i could say things like this as if they are the only thing that happen in those places but i don’t because they are not. i understand that things go both ways.

            all this being said, i have israeli friends (with queer family members) as well who would severely disagree with me and would lean towards the palestinians… so, perhaps, who am i to question them, when they have lived there longer than i, and experienced things more truly.

            but i believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and i form mine based on what i have experienced and read and discerned.

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            “as i understand it, israel aims to protect its citizens first and foremost. if i were a parent and my child and their friend happened to be drowning, i would certainly save my child first even if it meant the friend would have to drown. i would feel like shit i’m sure, but this wouldn’t make me a monster. ”

            – i find this statement pretty gosh darn unbelievable…
            you’re advocating collective punishment, the seperation wall, the settlements, an occupation, an apartheid road system, illegal detentions, house demolitions and a never ending multitude of other human rights abuses… really?

            Also; i get totally freaked out by any analogy that uses a parent to represent the ‘state’. It’s pretty creepy…

            I’m going to opt out of this discussion for fear of having some kind of adverse cardiac or cerebral event.

            http://www.activestills.org/
            http://www.btselem.org/English/index.asp
            http://talestotell.wordpress.com/

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            putting aside my agreement with ivytherapy about the ‘parent state’ and entertaining the analogy for a second (ish/not really), why does either child have to drown? does one child have to die/be oppressed/denied rights in order for the other, er, child to live?

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            Their child isn’t drowning. http://www.ifamericansknew.org/

            “124 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,463 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.”

            “1 Israeli is being held prisoner by Palestinians, while 5,935 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel. (View Sources & More Information)”

            Your analogy is like saying ‘well the other guy’s existence threatens me so I had to punch him in the teeth’.

            Hamas wants a Peace agreement on 1967 borders, a proposal EVEN BUSH approved. Netanyahu doesn’t, because he doesn’t want peace. Because Israel’s economy (and its greasy foreign aid) is based on war.

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            (second post)

            Oh and here are your poor little threatened children yelling ‘butcher the arabs': http://mondoweiss.net/2011/06/white-shirts-in-jerusalem-cry-butcher-the-arabs.html

            Everyday I read about new settler violence. A scared Israeli shooting down a pregnant Palestinian in the foot, settlers mass murdering funeral events etc etc. Except your american media and in fact most corrupt western media doesn’t report on it because they’re scared of Israel.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_settler_violence

            These people have been kicked out of their homes, systematically murdered. White phosphorus has been used on them (illegal under international law). Their land has been illegally occupied for decades. Israel has a baffling number of violated UN resolutions.

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        yes, care to elaborate?

        i was at the jerusalem parade myself “a few years ago”, 2009, i would say the most regretful thing about it was how few people there were. but my only standard was new york city, so maybe that doesn’t mean much.

        what i heard that year was that the haredi communities weren’t there because they didn’t want their children asking “what is gay?”

        but those extremists are everywhere.

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        Absolutely. And I figured a reply here would be as good a place as any to insert this group of Palestinian queer activists into the conversation: http://pqbds.wordpress.com/

        Amina’s comments about Israel really are immaterial to anything else she said or whether or not she is who she says she is. The opinions she stated (being in favor of non-violent resistance to Israel’s oppressive and violent policies) are not rare in the Arab world or in Palestine. Among Palestinian/Muslim queers, her opinions are totally representative. So whether or not she is who she’s saying she is, it’s not like her opinions on Israel are a sign for that.

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    @ paperflowers- you can be out in israel, but like america, sometimes you can’t be out to her family or community. my point is there are places you can go and people there for you. it’s not always automatic acceptance, but whatever. that’s what friends are for.

    i know a bunch of religious gay folks living happily in jerusalem. they may be out at various levels to their families and communities, but no one is going to kill them should they find out. there is a difference being afraid for your life and being afraid of someone not speaking to you anymore.

    i have seen lots of things i don’t like and disagree with in israel but i think it speaks volumes that the country is at the point where your biggest concern if you are gay is essentially the same as it is in america.

    i also don’t think that gay girl in damascus is a hypocrite- whoever s/he/it is. i just wanted to make a point of something i have experienced to be true. s/he/it is obviously just speaking from her point of view. so i wanted to do the same.

    @ragdoll , re: red herring. i agree. when obama was campaigning for the presidency i specifically remember him saying in one of his speeches, “to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters…”…. it was an OBVIOUS way of gaining the empathy/sympathy vote from gay folks.

    again, i am just speaking from my point of view because i think these forums/comment sections are a great place to explore and discover things we as individuals may or may not have considered or had the opportunity to find out. obviously the middle east is a touchy topic but i think that means we should share our ideas (vs ignoring it), for whatever they are worth.

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    Even if the blogger isn’t, in fact, real, does that mean her story isn’t? Just because it didn’t really happen, I mean, even if it’s just a fabrication, it’s still a story. I think even just a FICTIONAL Muslim woman in a country like Syria dealing with something like her homosexuality in a country so torn apart right now does wonders for those who feel they’re alone.

    It shouldn’t make anyone else feel alone. It’s still an inspiring kind of story and I still think that Amina — fictional or not — can still be considered a role model.

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      But if you were alone, and you got emotionally involved in the great and inspiring story of this person who was so inspiring / you related to, and then it transpired this person had been fabricating her life the whole time… wouldn’t you feel even more alone? I would.

      It would have been great and inspiring fiction, if it had never claimed to be anything else. But it did, so.

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    Eeeek this reminds me of 5 years ago when this crazy lesbian was stalking me and my friends via myspace and making up cancer stories and the like. it was so gross. at first i believed her (because srsly, WHO would make up a cancer story?!?) but when we did some detective work and figured out it was ALL a lie, it was just sad. i wonder if she and X are the same person, because if so, that person really needs to get a life.

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      there was a girl i went to school with, who told everyone she was getting a lung-transplant which was suspicious as she showed no signs of being at all unwell. People bought her cards, and stuffed animals and all kinds of stuff. She took one day off school for her “lung transplant” and then came back pretending that she’d had transplant surgery. Maybe she is X and she’s been harassing everyone via the internet?

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        haha nah, that’s not her style, she’d never myspace stalk anyone… it’s a very very very long/complicated/stunning story and i’ve actually never heard of any like it and i’ve read just about anything i could find about various con-artists, hipster grifter, frank abagnale, fake rockefellers, this woman who faked cancer and was a schoolteacher — but they all share similar things w/r/t how they evaded discovery. like the techniques are all the same. PEOPLE SHOULD STOP FAKING CANCER/DEATH, rightttt??? Anyhow! (this is like maybe 5% of the story… and this… and maybe one day i’ll tell the rest.)

        (also if anyone is considering commenting below this comment and telling me to watch catfish, please don’t, it’s actually somehow offensive to me because they so obviously staged a situation which cheapened the real trauma of actually going through it unwillingly… just read this read this. i cannot talk about or listen to ppl talk about catfish. it’s banned from the website as of now. actually this might be a parallel to this post, which would make this comment relevant, because it isn’t yet)

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          YES! My immediate reaction after watching Catfish was that it was staged. The crazy part about being fooled by someone on the internet is that you want to believe every thing they say, or maybe that was just me. But yes, Catfish is so fake.

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          That sounds awful Riese. I do have to say, though, I think what “Amina” is doing is worse yet somehow less psychotic than the loon you were dealing with. I mean, this fake Amina has sparked an international search by authorities, but all she really did was lie on a blog and in email — which, is very easy to do and I have done probably it myswlf (albeit not remotely as often or as big). Lying straight to people’s faces, people you know, people who you can see when they are upset, is like antisocial or whatever the DSM term is. I seriously hope you have rebounded from that. Sometimes you get screwed over in life. I’m going through that right now with my car… YAY!!!

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    I’m leaning/hoping towards it being a real story, even if she isn’t who she said she was – apparently the journalist who communicated with her via email said she was quite convincing as someone in the Syrian movement. I mean, I guess that could all be fake, and gleaned from online information? It seems like faking this kind of blog would be so much more time-intensive than faking a sex blog or whatever.

    Although, if you go to Rania Ismail’s Facebook page, it looks kind of sock-puppety: the first friend she added was Amina, she only has about 10 posts and they’re mostly about Islam and gay rights. Idk, I want everything to be legit, and I’m trying to keep thinking that it is, but something doesn’t seem right.

    Tl;dr: it seems scammy but I seriously hope it isn’t.

  13. Pingback: Autostraddle — The Gay Girl in Damascus May Be Fake, But Her Story … | MyGaySpot

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    A well-known activist I follow (and trust) has said that this might be an info-gathering operation. She befriended activists (queer and anti-Bashar alike) and had access to their data. Same goes for petitions (name lists).

    This thought is scary.

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    Let’s not forget the fact that even if she isn’t exactly who she says she is, it doesn’t mean her story isn’t true.

    If she is who she says she is there are several reasons to have started the blog under an assumed name:

    1) Even though her family may have been OK with her being out with her friends and to family, they may not have appreciated her broadcasting private family stuff on the internet.

    2) Posting under her real name may have caused problems for her with regard to work, etc.

    3) She may not have initially thought too much into it and felt safer starting the blog like that.

    Then, once the blog took off due to the civil unrest in Syria, there was another very important reason to stay undercover at the exact time she should have come out.

    I’m not saying her personal story is real, but just because her face and name aren’t real doesn’t mean the blog should automatically be discounted.

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    I want to share this story from a prisoner in Syria that Al Jazeera posted a couple of days ago: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/06/20116611297528598.html

    I’m assuming Al Jazeera did some fact checking on this, and it is a truly horrifying account of how protesters in Syria are being treated. So, how much does the fact that this story is “true” and Amina’s is “fake” really matter for assessing the horrendous acts of the Syrian government? And isn’t that the point here? To allow us to look critically at what is going on in Syria and direct as much international attention to their crimes as possible? Does the fake story take away from the real stories, or do they ultimately achieve similar anti-regime results?

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    I can’t solidify a reaction until I know if the impostor is Syrian or not. If she’s Syrian or a Syrian American who has lived there, she’s just a pathological liar. If she’s a white westerner capitalizing on orientalist interest in Arab or Muslim women, she’s a pathological liar who has fucked up on an even greater level.

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    Is it possible that this girl made up an identity for her own safety? If she was writing things that would put her and her family in danger, it makes sense to me that should would write it under an alias.
    I don’t think it’s fair to judge her without knowing the true story.

  19. Pingback: ‘Lesbian blogger from Syria may be a hoax’ – Jerusalem Post

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    These two real LGBTQ folks in Damascus answered the fucker about the hoax:

    http://gaymiddleeast.com/news/news%20317.htm

    “Your apology is not accepted, since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest. I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure.”

    “You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm’s way so you can play your little game of fictional writing.”

    “This attention you brought forced me back to the closet on all the social media websites I use; cause my family to go into a frenzy trying to force me back into the closet and my friends to ask me for phone numbers of loved ones and family members so they can call them in case I disappeared myself.”

    “You took away my voice, Mr. MacMaster, and the voices of many people who I know. To bring attention to yourself and blog; you managed to bring the LGBT movement in the Middle East years back. You single-handedly managed to bring unwanted attention from authorities to our cause and you will be responsible for any LGBT activist who might be yet another fallen angel during these critical time.”

    My God, someone has to sue that bastard.

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      Well, hopefully Jelena Lecic will go after him for stealing her identity.

      How can he think he “didn’t really” hurt people? Not just what he did to Jelena, but he led on “Amina’s” girlfriend, and he gave all these Middle-Eastern activists false hope?

      If it was really about using a fictional account to bring the problem to light, than just admit it was fiction, douche.

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      That is a nicely worded FUCK YOU. Apparently he is an American. The State Department and federal authorities spent time and resources investigating this. I wonder if he could face charges? That British woman whose pictures he stole should be able to sue him as well. He would deserve it, quite frankly.

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