Last week it was widely reported that a lesbian blogger in Syria had been kidnapped. Soon after, however, doubts began to arise about the true identity of Amina Araf, as it seemed that no one had ever met her in person. Ending speculation today, the true author stepped forward with a note on the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus that Araf had supposedly written. As it turns out, Araf is actually Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old, heterosexual man from Georgia. According to The Washington Post, MacMaster is a Middle East peace activist and is currently working on his master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
On the blog, MacMaster wrote:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading 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 thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng 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.
July 12, 2011
The sole author of all posts on this blog
The post was written while he is vacationing with his wife in Istanbul. After initially denying that he had any involvement with the blog, MacMaster finally came clean. He claims that he wanted to help draw attention to the real problems that exist in the Middle East, and wrote as Araf for at least five years.