Is there really a 'Gay Girl in Damascus'?
An English language blog, "Gay Girl in Damascus" popped up in February, chronicling the adventures of the supposedly out and proud Amina Abdullah Arraf.Skip to next paragraph
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Ms. Arraf described herself as a Syrian-American lesbian inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and living with her family in Damascus. While a gay Syrian woman using her own name might have seemed unlikely in a notoriously ruthless and conservative police state, her blog quickly attracted a modest following.
In April, influential blogger Andrew Sullivan flagged a post of hers about how her father stopped members of Syrian state security from arresting his daughter. The post says that two armed "thugs" arrived in the dead of night to take her away. Her father first defended her against charges she might be an Islamist by referring to the fact that she's a lesbian. After that yielded crude sexual taunts and groping of his daughter, according to the post, he delivered a lecture on the need for Syria to overcome its social and religious divisions, telling the state security men that his daughter was a fighter for that kind of change. His words, according to the blog, completely won the two men over and they meekly departed.
This rather implausible story (an Arab father proudly disclosing to strangers that his daughter is a lesbian, members of Bashar al-Assad's security forces failing to carry out their orders because of an impassioned speech straight out of Hollywood) was an internet hit. Mr. Sullivan called it a "must-read," yielding the site a bigger following. News outlets like CNN interviewed her via e-mail on gay rights in the Arab world.
Then on Monday, a poster to the website identifying herself as Rania O. Ismail and claiming to be a cousin, said Amina had been abducted, presumably by the state. On the day she "disappeared" Sullivan called her "a great, feisty Syrian blogger," said a poem on the site that used a flying-bird metaphor for freedom reduced him to tears and urged his readers to "pray for her, wherever she is. And for the people in her country, who are yearning to fly." Within days, the "Free Amina" Facebook page had 13,000 "likes."