Tom MacMaster, the man behind the
‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog.
A 40-year-old American man has confessed to being the mysterious lesbian blogger who it was feared had been abducted by Syrian security forces in Damascus.
Last week, international media reported that Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, a Syrian-American who published the ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog, had been kidnapped in the city’s streets, based on claims written on the blog by her cousin.
The matter become increasingly suspicious when no one could be found who had actually met the blogger in the flesh.
Pictures that Araf posted of herself were identified as having been taken from a British woman’s Facebook profile.
On Sunday, the truth finally came out.
Tom MacMaster, described as a a Middle East peace activist, admitted that he was the person behind the blog. For at least five years he used the fictional persona of a Syrian-American lesbian woman to highlight human rights abuses in Syria.
He even conducted a virtual lesbian relationship with Sandra Bagaria, a French Canadian woman who exchanged hundreds of emails with Araf.
Publishing his apology on the ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog, MacMaster said that he 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,” he wrote.
“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.”
It is unclear where MacMaster is presently located. Some reports say that he is at the University of Edinburgh, where he is a graduate student, but according to his blog message he is in Istanbul, Turkey.
MacMaster said that “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.”
He added: “I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.”
Many supporters of Araf and her blog reacted with anger.
“To Mr MacMaster, I say shame on you!!!” wrote The editor of GayMiddleEast.com. “Your apology is not accepted. Since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure. Really … Shame on you!!!”