Amina Arraf was a gay girl in Syria. Her blog about life in Damascus, and her part in the anti-government protests was followed by journalists and activists worldwide. When it was posted last Monday that she had been seized by armed men, the news was reported around the world and an online campaign began to secure her release.
Except, as some of you may have read, Amina Arraf does not exist. She comes from the imagination of Tom MacMaster, a forty year old American student currently studying at Edinburgh University. Quite apart from the very real damage that Mr MacMaster has probably done to the people of Syria who are genuinely trying to get their message across (which is described here), what of the people that he has unwittingly involved? Jelena Lecic had her photographs used both in news reports and on Facebook under Amina's name. Sandra Bagaria, a woman living in Canada appeared distraught that the woman she had built a close online friendship with, and one whose release she was campaigning for, might not be real.
I cannot pretend to know how difficult it is for the people of Syria, I take my freedom to write pretty much what I want for granted, From what I have read, Mr MacMaster gave a very accurate portrayal of happenings at the moment. What a pity that all that good has been undone in an instant.
He said “people should stop focusing on the hoaxer and really be focusing on the most important people, the real people who are suffering in Syria.”
They should, but they won't. I suspect they won't focus as sympathetically on the blogs coming from Syria in the future either. I accept that he didn't think his views would be taken seriously if he blogged as himself but there had to be another way, surely? I don't know if having 'Amina' seized was his way of trying to end the charade when he appeared to be in danger of being 'outed', but I bet this has done every bit as much harm to the cause of the truth tellers of Syria as it would have done to the fictional Amina.
P.S. If you read no other links on this post, I urge you to click this one and read the first comment after the article, from a guy known as AllTheMuppetsAreDead. The last three lines are priceless.