A lot of people, including reputable news agencies, were following the plight of a lesbian Syrian blogger, whom many believed had disappeared in the turmoil currently ongoing in that country. It turned out that Amina Abdallah Arraf didn’t actually exist, and was the brainchild of an American college student studying in Scotland.
University of Edinburgh exchange student dupes world media
Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old Master’s degree student at the University of Edinburgh has been revealed as the author of a blog called “A Gay Girl in Damascus” that came to international prominence in the media and now has to rank as one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. MacMaster fabricated the blog and its “author” Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari, according to MSNBC, in an odd attempt to call attention to the situation in Syria. For months, MacMaster wrote posts under this assumed persona of a young lesbian in Syria, criticizing the current regime and “covering” the ongoing protests and horrific crackdowns by the Syrian army. However, once news agencies started to come calling for interviews, MacMaster knew his feet were about to be in the fire.
Claims of Amina Arraf arrest lead to discovery
By June, the blog was getting so much attention that he had to create a way out. So he invented a cousin named “Rania Ismail,” who guest-blogged on Amina’s site on June 6 that Amina had been abducted. Major news organizations like CNN and others ran stories about her disappearance, and a “Free Amina Arraf” campaign began online, but inconsistencies began to appear. On June 7, English newspaper The Guardian was contacted by Jelena Lecic, an administrator at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Pictures of Arraf were taken from Lecic’s Facebook profile photos. The IP address of “Arraf’s” emails were discovered to have come from the University of Edinburgh. “Arraf” had been contacted in February by an American reporter, according to the Daily Mail, about the University of Edinburgh IP address, but said that “she” had to use proxy IPs to avoid detection by Syrian authorities. On June 10, the information about the Scottish IP address was published, and MacMaster confessed by June 12.
Middle East peace activism gone awry
MacMaster, in an interview with the New York Times given after he admitted to the hoax, said that after his blog had started getting international attention, he knew he had to shut it down. He claims, according to Al Jazeera, that the character was fake, but the information about turmoil in Syria “on the ground” was accurate. MacMaster and his wife, Britta Froelicher, are both Middle East peace activists and were on vacation in Turkey when the story broke. Froelicher is also a Master’s student at the University of St. Andrews. Actual Syrians, including actual LGBT Syrians, are in real danger at present, and people are dying there. MacMaster is an American student at one of the poshest universities in Europe.
The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8572884/A-Gay-Girl-in-Damascus-how-the-hoax-unfolded.html
The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2002854/A-Gay-Girl-Damascus-Tom-MacMaster-40-blogger-Amina-Arraf.html
New York Times: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/gay-girl-in-damascus-blogger-admits-to-writing-fiction-disguised-as-fact/?hp
Al Jazeera: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/06/201161345554900720.html
Do you have a fantastic idea related to this article, but just don't have the money you need to start your own company or side-business? Get the loans you need from https://personalmoneynetwork.com to help get your new company underway, from the small loan professionals at PersonalMoneyNetwork.