‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ Blogger Kidnapped by 3 Armed Men, Silenced, Still Missing – UPDATED

Amina Abdallah, a.k.a. Gay Girl in Damascus, is missing. Two days ago, Amina was taken by three men at a bus station.They were armed and in their 20s, according to Amina’s cousin. Her family hasn’t heard from her. They’re not sure which security force the men belong with, if/when they will release her, or if she is hurt or in danger.

See, Amina lives in Syria and Amina is a lesbian and Amina was brave enough to start a blog called Gay Girl in Damascus which has gotten a lot of attention lately. Her frank observations about Syria and its government — especially how it feels to be a lesbian under those conditions — are brave, courageous, and artfully rendered. Her reception has been so positive and so enormous that eventually the Syrian government took notice, and clearly didn’t like what they saw.

From Abdallah’s family:

Unfortunately, there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs. We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her.

From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so.

Amina’s writing gives a beautiful voice to the revolutionary feelings stirring in Syria and it’s amazing she’s been able to write this as long as she has. Her perspective is unique and almost every post is worth your time. Go read them. Also join the Facebook group calling for her release.

I will leave you with an excerpt from an April post about the last time she encountered government intimidation and why she chose to stay in Damascus, despite such threats:

“So, when my father says he will not leave until either democracy comes or he is dead, I have no choice but to stay. Not because he is making me, but because he is not making me.

We sent the rest away; any who can, any who will left for Beirut. I cannot go. He’s staying so so will I.”


UPDATE: Questions are now arising about the veracity of the reported abduction and Amina’s identity, as reported by the Guardian. US officials have been unable to confirm her citizenship or anyone by that name living in Damascus; no one has been able to verify her identity in the US or Syria. A London woman, Jelena Lecic, claims that the photos that have been widely circulated as being of Amina are in fact of her.

Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 131 articles for us.

75 Comments

  1. Pingback: » Female blogger kidnapped in Syria – ABC Online :: iSS

  2. Thank you for covering this; this is one of those situations where inevitably it feels like I’m not doing enough – but those links in the article & comments are worth following to send email to ambassadors – I hope it can help.

  3. That’s so awful. Thanks for covering this AS, I’ll be sure to email the Syrian Consulate in NY. Even as I type that it seems like such a small gesture. I hope she’s returned safe and sound.

  4. I’m a little confused by this part:

    “From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so.”

    If no one has heard from her, how do they know she is still alive? Sorry to be a downer.

    • I’m assuming because if the regime/whoever was doing that it’d be to send a message or scare other people and they’d have let them know/dumped a body.

      But I guess also, that’s thinking more hopefully…

      I’d been reading her blog and really hoping it wasn’t just a matter of time when she’d be ‘disappeared’. It’s awful :-S

      Anyone in the US – Amina is a dual US citizen so publicity and pressure coming from the States can only help!

  5. I’m terribly terrified for her and hope she is found safe and healthy.
    These types of stories traumatize me. Especially this one. As an (agnostic non-practicing) Muslim. As a female. As a lesbian. With the same name…
    :\

  6. Wow. I read her blog after it got Teampicked. She’s a brave, brave person and I hope she’s okay. I really admire her for staying and recording all of her experiences. Thanks for covering this, AS.

  7. Horrible and terrifying. I really hope she’s OK. This may be a selfish thought, but when I hear what people face in other less tolerant countries for just being themselves, I feel so fortunate and proud, despite my homeland’s imperfections. Hoping to hear good news about Amina soon.

  8. My little heart loves her….and I hope somehow that all the love and hope we have for her will fill the air and somehow change the choices of the men who have taken her.

    This is horrible.

  9. I got sooo into this blog after someone Team-Picked it, and nearly cried when I saw the news this morning.

    I still have hope though; Amina is known to the international press, and news of her kidnapping is all over the place.

    She’s also a US citizen, so hopefully the US government will help to work towards her release.

    One of the things that really pissed me off was that some commenter (“anonymous”, quite obviously someone with the regime) was trolling the comments on the posts about her kidnapping starting fights about Muslims, gays, whatever they could, to distract from the actual issue, and to clog up the comments so that it’s less likely that Amina’s family would see the posts that they actually need to see (like from people at The Guardian or the US Embassy).

    I am worked up.

    • yeah – i saw that article and just got an immediate flash of rage. I think my flatmate put it best when she said
      “we’re talking about a lesbian blogger in Syria, not God, do we need empirical evidence to prove her existance before we can be angry about this?”
      I can think of lots of reasons as to why youd want to be untraceable writing a blog like that…

      • I would like to agree with this, I am a reader of Amina’s, but I thought she said she felt she was able to use her real name because of her family political connections, which are very well established?

        If that is the case, and neither her name or that of her family is known, it isn’t a good sign. But as even Carver is saying, better at this stage to assume Amina is a pseudonym, and call for her release until we know anything else.

    • That is very interesting. I will follow this. A faked blog, faked kidnapping and faked release for a book deal is not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. But for now, I just hope we will get word Amina is OK.

      • I haven’t read the fiction blog or her autobiographical blog to determine if she was passing off fictional encounters in 2007 as real ones at a later time. It’s possible both blogs are real and she took the real bits from the fiction and put them in her autobiographical blog as background in the interest of sharing with her new readers. I don’t think the two blogs in and of itself means anything. I do think it would be odd to not be able to reach her family or any friends, but I don’t know how long NYT has been trying…

        • yeah i actually do that all the time, i’m always grabbing things from old writing and sticking it into new writing — some fictional, some not. i don’t think that means anything in and of itself either.

          that being said… having been best friends with a girl for two years who turned out to be lying about every single thing she ever did or said for no reason AND having witnessed the joy of someone faking the gay suicide of a 17-year-old boy just to fuck with the media last october, i do feel a little skeptical… which makes me feel like an asshole, which then makes me think maybe i should be more skeptical. then i feel like an asshole again, and then it keeps going.

          • Ha! This is my exact feeling. “This could be another balloon boy.” “Oh my god, this woman could be being brutalized at this very moment.” “But this story is a little too elaborate.” “Oh my god, I am a horrible person.”

            Thanks to Sarah for updating this post. I’ve been following this. Definitely suspicious…

            OH MY GOD I AM SUCH A BAD PERSON

          • Yes, of course.

            I think I was speaking from the part of me that thought it was a hoax when I first read the blog. I commented on the new article about this situation and elaborated a little more on my feelings about this.

          • I feel like the media is focusing on totally the wrong thing here. An incident like this puts the international spotlight on suppression of activists and bloggers in Syria. Instead of supporting them we are questioning the existence of one and expending so much energy and effort in doing so when the same effort could be done to help other (verifiably real) people who are known to be captured? Is this just me?

          • See, I just can’t get behind that view. I’m glad the international spotlight is currently on the horrible things that are occurring in Syria, and that it will maybe encourage people to do something about it, but if Amina and her blog are eventually revealed to be a hoax, that is only going to make people less likely to trust the stories of people being persecuted in Syria and less likely to take the whole issue seriously. Lying about it only hurts the cause in the long run.

            Plus, I find the idea of people exploiting a serious issue for their own personal 15 minutes of fame to be despicable.

  10. Oh no!!! I recently read through her blog, but haven’t been able to read anymore since because I couldn’t remember the name, but ugh I agree with Merin, it’s horrible that such an incredible women who has been through lot is going through this.
    Screw them.

  11. Is she from london? Because I def used to see her on the scene all the time, last year. And she had a profile on gaydar girls with her location as london, quite recently.

  12. I’m not on gaydar anymore and can’t remember what her username was. But I def recognise the woman in the pics. But last time I remember seeing her was at Brighton Pride so she could well have left the UK after that.

    • No I think you are right, you saw this girl: http://www.facebook.com/Jelena74 who is the one in the pictures that are circulating. What’s weird is that I heard her ex-husband was the one who saw the pictures and was like wait that can’t be a blogger in syria that’s my ex-wife. But her interests include the lesbian film festival so I guess she is on our team now.

  13. As of this morning it looks like the whole thing could be a hoax. The pictures that sprung up online of her, and which her girlfriend confirms she thought were of her, are actually of some lesbian in London. The girlfriend has never actually met or spoken to her, only exchanged emails and chats online. The US Embassy can’t find anyone with her name. No journalist has found a family member or friend who knows her.

    Suspiciously there is a cousin, Rania Ismail, who is friends with both Amina and the gf on fb and has been speaking for her but she hasn’t/won’t/can’t? speak to the press.

    The only thing that is for sure is that someone was writing a blog, and then someone posted to the blog saying the author was taken. But there is no evidence that any of the previous encounters on the blog are true.

    Andy Carvin at NPR is trying to look into it, if you want to follow his twitter.

    • I followed him on Twitter specifically for this. I thought it was weird that someone had access to her personal blog and updated it to say she was missing. And then, if I remember correctly, that person said Amina had left her some stuff to say in case she ever disappeared. Seems like a convenient bit of exposition for the next part of the story. Even if people who knew her didn’t want to talk to the press, I’m sure the press would find someone to confirm she’s real.

      The fake pictures are a big tell. The person who is actually in those pictures has a private Facebook account… I wonder if that’s always been the case or only recent because what’s happening now. Because it could be possible to narrow the hoaxer to someone on her friends list, assuming the pictures are from Facebook and aren’t posted on some other public site. LonelyGirl15 anyone?

      A hoax would be better than this woman being hurt. Makes me curious as to the motivation…

  14. Regardless of whose photos those are, regardless of what her name actually is, does it really diminish her writing and efforts, especially if she *IS* kidnapped? I think it would make more sense to use a pseudonym online, given her circumstance. The hoax and reality elements of her blog are not mutually incompatible.

    • Well it would diminish her “efforts” because they would be entirely fictional. At this point, it seems the author doesn’t even live in Syria, let alone fight for gay rights there. But people have only been working to confirm her identity for two days. I’m definitely watching closely…

      • I suppose. To me, even a fictitious account of a real thing is meaningful (think of any politically-driven fictional story: Turgeynev’s Fathers & Sons helped lead to the emancipation of serfs in the Russian Empire even though the story was not based on real events), so that’s why I’m still crediting this blog for shedding light on something.

        On the flip-side, if this person doesn’t have the “right” to be voicing this story, then I understand the problems it will have in legitimizing the situation in Syria.

        • The difference is that Turgeynev never claimed Fathers & Sons was a true story. Fiction is only powerful when you acknowledge it as such from the get-go, when no one ends up feeling like they’ve been had. Gay Girl in Damascus could have ended up having the same effect if MacMaster acknowledged from the get-go she was a fictional character based off of his own knowledge of Syria. (Although he might want to get rid of the hypocritical posts about how only Arabs, not Westerners, can understand the needs of Arab nations and people.)

          When something is believed to be true and then turns out to be a lie, the opposite happens. People distance themselves from the whole situation so as not to look the fool again, and so it ends up only de-legitimizing the cause with which it was associated.

  15. Pingback: The disappearance of Amina Arraf, a gay girl in Damascus

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