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“Amina” Fraud Breeds Danger and Pain in Syria

“Amina” Fraud Breeds Danger and Pain in Syria

NOTE: We all know the story of “Amina” the “Gay Female Blogger” allegedly kidnapped in Syria, and most of us know that it turned out to be a fraud created by “a married man” named Tom MacMaster. Very few of us, however, know how it feels to be gay in such a place.   The blog Gay Middle East was generous enough to share this account of just that.

Following the revelation that “Amina” was a hoax two LGBT Syrian Activists speak out.

Sami Hamwi, Gay Middle East Syria:

Blogging in Syria has been forbidden by law for more than eight years. As internet started to flourish, many Syrians started to use internet spaces and blogs to write personal thoughts, poetry, short stories… etc. unaware of that fact, but they remained safe as the authorities only monitored political and human rights blogs. LGBT bloggers can manage to keep safe only if their blogs were meant for gossip and entertainment, but they might have to face different kind of difficulties if they reported news or engaged into LGBT rights activism. As soon as any blog starts to attract attention, the agony with authorities’ interference starts.

Syrians police deal with opposition, activists, journalists, bloggers… etc. in 2 main methods, a third one might be added to intimidate the ones who pose “less harm”. For many purposes I will use the word “subject” to refer to people targeted by the Syrian secret police.

The first method is to call the subject and say: “We would like to come over for a chat!!!.  Later, when they find it necessary to interview the subject more than once they might say: “Come over for a cup of coffee and a little chat!!!”. Needless to say that this is an “offer” no one can refuse. Those chats are normally friendly and full of “heartfelt advices” by the officer about what to do or not to do; the subject has to comply. Frequent visits are normal for journalists and usually take place every 2-3 months. I have “chatted” with friendly officers for more than 37 times so far and was given valuable advices not to engage into any kind of political activism.

The second method is actual arrests. It is used when the subject is deemed to be “effective and harmless” and/or with connection to the west or western media. Normally no one can find out where the subject has been taken to, what branch of secret police made the arrest, and when the subject will be released if they were ever released. Fortunately, the second method has been never used with me, and I hope this will remain to be the case, but it was used with many of my friends as I mentioned in a previous blog. For days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, I didn’t hear or know any news about those friends. I know two friends who had disappeared a few years back, and I know nothing about them until now.

The third method is what is called in an exact translation “a security study”. Secret police agents go to the subject’s place of residence, work, or home town, they interrogate their relatives, coworkers and/or employers, and they hint at points the subjects themselves know about. This is widely used with LGBT people as a threat to expose to families or employers. People might get killed or at least fired if their homosexuality was exposed as the society is far from being lenient with sexuality issues. I have been a subject of such studies more than 6 times, last one was two days after the upraise in Syria started.

I started to write all this after Amina Araf story was one of the lead stories in the media after her alleged arrest. As I was about to publish my views about her and her stories, I was stunned by the latest post that was published on that blog. Instead of not publishing what I have wrote, I thought people in the west should know about the secret police in Syria, and how they deal with Syrians.

To Mr. MacMaster, I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism. Add to that, that it might have caused doubts about the authenticity of our blogs, stories, and us. 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!!!

To the readers and the western media I say, there are authentic people in the Middle East who are blogging and reporting stories about the situation in their countries. You should pay attention to these people.

Daniel Nassar: Gay Middle East

I’m so outraged I can’t even type well. 

Mr. Tom MacMaster, with due respect, has the audacity to say on the blog he created over the last two years that he did not harm anyone with his fictional writing; I beg to differ.

Because of you, Mr. MacMaster, a lot of the real activists in the LGBT community became under the spotlight of the authorities in Syria. These activists, among them myself, had to change so much in their attitude and their lives to protect themselves from the positional harm your little stunt created. You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm’s way so you can play your little game of fictional writing. 

This attention you brought forced me back to the closet on all the social media websites I use; cause my family to go into a frenzy trying to force me back into the closet and my friends to ask me for phone numbers of loved ones and family members so they can call them in case I disappeared myself. Many people who are connected to me spent nights worrying about me and many fights I had with my family were because you wanted to play your silly game of the media. 

You feed the foreign media an undeniable dish of sex, religion and politics and you are now leaving us with this holier-than-thou semi-apologize with lame and shallow excuses of how you wanted to bring attention to the right people on the ground. I’m sorry, you’re not on the ground, you don’t know the ground and you don’t even belong to the culture of the people on the group.

You took away my voice, Mr. MacMaster, and the voices of many people who I know. To bring attention to yourself and blog; you managed to bring the LGBT movement in the Middle East years back. You single-handedly managed to bring unwanted attention from authorities to our cause and you will be responsible for any LGBT activist who might be yet another fallen angel during these critical time. 

I’m outraged, and if I lived in a country where I can sue you, I would.

Once more, this post appeared first on the blog Gay Middle East.

 

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@MrScarce via twitpic


By Sami Hamwi and Daniel Nassar of GME GayMiddleEast.com

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32 comments

+ add your own
6:44AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Thanks for the info.

8:55AM PDT on Jun 24, 2011

wow

5:36AM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

so it is safer in Syria than the others said? so then too much of the world is hyperbole? if LGBT people don't get it as bad as we thought, then American born cyberbullying is blow out of purportion?

1:10PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

This is a good time to ask yourself "How do I know what I do about the Middle East?" In 2006 I was an international observer at the Palestinian Legislative Elections. One of the biggest shocks for me was how badly the media distorted events. Even the BBC spun the story so badly that readers could easily conclude the truth lay 180 degrees from where I had observed it to be.

Today we must remember truth that no amount of spinning can erase. Violence never makes things better. Far too much violence is being exported by the USA and her allies into the Islamic world. Real flesh and blood people are dying needlessly.

4:17AM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

As a rule, I never, NEVER fall for any 'save this person from jail in Cambodia' or even 'help this child with a fatal blood disease in a UK hospital' - as false or true as these may be, if I don't know them or are connected to them by friend/family, I don't open myself to be misled. Animals are a different story as they'd never deceive you. Falsifying your ID is a crime... he should go to jail or do some serious community service for a long while.

2:00AM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

People like Amina and Manal would have you believe that there is opression of the worst kind in these countries, women are locked up, children are beaten, LGBTs are bullied and so on. These are government sponsored propagnadists who set the stage for countries like America to be justified in attacking these countries. the excuse for attacking would be the change of an opressive regime, or freeing the people who didn't ask to be free) which is in reality the control of oil.

I can't even begin to tell most Americans that you are so wrong in your opinons about the muslim world and Islam. The U.S government took the people for a ride. and while they reap the benefits of Oil and fill selective pockets, the people are generally left with benefit cuts and hearts full of unwanted unwarranted Hate.

1:48AM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

See this is the kind of information that a lot of Americans get to base their opinons on about the muslim world and the middle east. i wonder how many McMasters are running Islamic hate sites, spreading negetive propaganda and even blogging here.

And most muslims are always crying about the fact that these things are false, false, false.

It doesn't require a huge stretch of imagination to link this kind of behaviour to government sponsored propaganda. It was briefly reported on "Aljazeera" that two British officers in Iraq dressed up with turbans and fake beards went around the town market in Baghdad shooting civilians and Yelling "Allah Akbar" until subdued by the police. Britsh government demanded their release but when it was refused, British tanks went in and rescued these two soldiers from prison. Now if these buggers hadn't been caught, you would have had a statment from the foreign office that AlQaida killed civilians.

War is fought on many fronts. and America needs a reason desperatley to go into Saudia and other middle east countries. but first it has to set the stage. it must make you believe that there is oppression there, that they are going in there for the right reasons.

8:38PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

To Daniel Nassar, you dear sir , are a "better man than I". This tom macmaster deserves no "due respect". He deserves no respect at all. And if there are any that come to know him, I hope they also come to be aware of what he has done, the pain he has caused, the lives he has put at risk. This human, for he no longer deserves to ne called a man, should be stripped of respect by the world for the rest of his hopefully miserable life.

7:37PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

Another reason this could be very hurtful is governments in the region may conclude he was employed somehow by our govt. to pull this bonehead stunt, that it's part of some U.S. propaganda effort against certain regimes.

Even if they understand he wasn't, they can use the fact he was a U.S. citizen to discredit their own citizens by blaming the U.S. or the west, saying all opposition activity is just drummed up by western media stooges (their boogeymen of choice). So, far from providing 'help' as he claimed, Mr. McMasters has in fact created valuable propaganda for these regimes to continue arresting and torturing their own subjects.

Before conspiracists start talking about Russian dolls and spy vs. spy stuff, let me point out our intelligence folks know about tracing servers and portals, and what this amateur did was just plain stupid.

I think our efforts in the region are more directed at helping ordinary people, in any case. They don't need any reminders from the U.S., nor fake blogging from nutty individuals, to understand they have been living under awful dictatorships. Torture and death are eloquent incentives for revolution.

7:22PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

What a loser- he is just causing problems for others with his fraud.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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