Amina: A 40-Year-Old Heterosexual White American Man

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When news broke out a week ago about Amina Arraf’s arrest in Damascus, we at Bekhsoos were very keen on supporting who we thought was a Syrian political activist. We had previously corresponded with “Amina” via email and cross-posted her work; she promised to write articles for Bekhsoos and we thought that was amazing.
When news broke out about “Amina’s” arrest, we were appalled; we sat and discussed the issue in our editorial meetings. Today, we stand before you with the knowledge that the owner of the blog “Gay Girl in Damascus” is none other than Tom MacMaster, an American student at Edinburgh University. Mr. MacMaster issued a public apology yesterday, June 12, on the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blog saying:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voice may
have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading
as to the situation on the ground. 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.
I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle
East and their struggles in this year of revolutions. The events there are
being shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried
to illuminate them for a western audience.
This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often
superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new
forms of liberal Orientalism.
However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.
Tom MacMaster,
Istanbul, Turkey
June 12, 2011
The sole author of all posts on this blog
Earlier this week when questions about “Amina’s” existence were circulating, my reply was very clear and concise: Regardless who the person behind the blog is, this blog was real to its readers. In a short period of time, it gave a voice to sexual minorities and political activists in Syria and was respected for the courage of the person behind it. For me, “Amina” was as real as her blog; I related to her life, we became friends and exchanged emails, etc. I understood what anonymity meant to her and I know what it means to us. I expected a fake picture and even a fake name; I did not expect a fake personality all together.
I was still hoping while reading this public apology that the person behind the blog was Syrian, that he/she was arrested, that they at least lived in Syria! Sadly Mr. MacMaster with his hoax delegitimized the voice of so many Arab, specifically Syrian, bloggers. He spoke on our behalf without having the right or legitimacy of doing so, while delegitimizing our voice in the process. So I would like to thank you for stepping on our feet, experimenting with our lives, opening the eyes of an oppressive system to our existence, and most of all thank you for lying to us and tricking us into believing you. And since we are issuing out a thank you, we would also like to thank your wife for taking time off from her Istanbul vacation to tell the world that she
doesn’t want to be bothered with this mess of news.
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تائهة بين حيطان الجامعة، شارع الحمرا، وكتب في غرفة نوم داخل منزل تننظر اليوم التي ستحيا خارجه. صديقها المفضل ال "لاب توب" بحيث اصبحت لا تعرف التعامل مع الناس إلا من خلال شاشته. تؤمن بالثورة وقدرة الثورة، وحاليا تمر بسلسلة من ثوراتها الخاصة. بحاجة ماسة لمنزل في الطابق ال١٨ لتعيش اغنيتها المفضلة ولو للحظات.

7 Responses to “Amina: A 40-Year-Old Heterosexual White American Man”

  1. @Firas:
    Not to be playing devil’s advocate here, but I used to feel something similar with americans, i was always shocked at how they don’t seem to know/care about the world they impact at least. But with a lot of thinking and because I was lucky enough to go to the US for a short period, I also got the opportunity to live in the media context they live in, and I tell you it’s not easy to care about something that is not in your news. It was so difficult to access information from Lebanon, or news that took into consideration the Lebanese perspective ya3ne.

    And also, it’s a bit insensitive to say such things about the US when we are guilty of the same self-centered attitude. Look at the Lebanese reaction to the Syrian uprising, most people just cared about how it will influence us, the ones trying to organize solidarity vigils with the Syrian martyrs were faced first and foremost by Lebanese who didn’t want Lebanon to be associated with the uprising, even though Syria is only a few hours away, and especially that we know first hand what the Syrian regime is like. We know how cruel they are and how inhumane they are, yet we didn’t want to think about it, even though a few years ago so many Lebanese were so vocal insulting Syrians along with the Syrian regime during the Cedar revolution.

    Apathy is just very convenient and so much easier sometimes.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Serena

    Jun 16. 2011

    As an American lesbian, I was shocked and horrified at this hoax. No one should appropriate the voice of a community to which they do not belong.

    Reply to this comment
  3. firas

    Jun 15. 2011

    Sorry for the generalization, but I have dealt with Americans a lot, and all I noticed is an exaggerated sense of indifference/arrogance/distance/sarcasm towards other peoples and cultures, especially if it were Arabs “since they are a lot mediatized”.

    You don’t get the impression that they have any sense of compassion “but rather a fake sense of understanding”…

    Reply to this comment
  4. migheille

    Jun 14. 2011

    what is the dude personal email / personal site ?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Zafer - Syria

    Jun 13. 2011

    this Orientalist asshole single-handedly usurped my voice as a queer Syrian and delegitimized the stances of many human rights activists that care about our cause. What’s the reaction gonna be like after this when a genuine queer blogger… is genuinely abducted??
    Not to mention he distracted the international human rights attention with his abduction story from the mass exodus of thousands of Syrian across the Turkish borders after significant bloodshed. What the fuck did he think he was doing?? If I could press charges against this asshole, I could. apology not accepted.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Salma

    Jun 13. 2011

    add fuel to the fire! here is his interview on the guardian…

    Reply to this comment
  7. Phoenix

    Jun 13. 2011

    what a couple of jerks.
    no apologi will ever be sufficient for the arab lgbt movement and the people who risk their lives being activists in the arab countries and Syria in particular.
    deepli touched? ure deepli disturbed!

    Reply to this comment

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