‘Gay Girl In Damascus’ Is Married Man in America

Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News

Submitted by David Strom:

‘Gay Girl In Damascus’ Turns Out To Be An American Man
by Eyder Peralta and Andy Carvin
June 12, 2011

Over the last several months, Amina Arraf, a blogger who said she was Syrian-American and went by the name Gay Girl In Damascus, captured the world’s attention. Her blog caught on just as the protests against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria became widespread and the crackdowns more violent.

On June 6, it all came to a screeching halt when Amina’s cousin declared on the blog that Amina had met the fate of many bloggers in authoritarian regimes: Assad’s police had taken her into custody. Whether she was alive or dead, no one knew.

As soon as “Free Amina” groups popped up on Facebook and the State Department began looking for her, the story began to seem a lot like fiction. No one had ever talked to Amina. The Guardian published a profile of her June 7 that included a picture they soon found out wasn’t Amina but of a Londoner called Jelena Lecic. The biographical details in her blog posts did not check out. Amina Arraf couldn’t be found in any public records in Georgia or Virginia and the names of her father and mother also turned up nothing.

Today, the Gay Girl In Damascus blog ended the mystery, posting an apology that revealed Amina was in fact the work of Tom MacMaster, an American from Georgia whose university records show is in a medieval studies graduate program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

On the blog, he 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.

The revelation came hours after NPR approached Britta Froelicher, his wife, with some evidence that connected her with Gay Girl In Damascus. Other news organizations appeared to be zeroing in on the couple, too. Over the past week, we’ve been talking to people who kept in contact with “Amina.” Some of them had been in contact with this online persona for as long as five years.

We obtained hundreds of emails from a Yahoo! group called thecrescentland that was administered by the online persona. The group has since been removed. One of the people on that list, however, provided us with a mailing address the online persona had given them. The website The Electronic Intifada connected the address with the owner Tom MacMaster.

Sandra Bagaria provided us pictures that Amina had sent her during their six-month friendship in which they exchanged some 500 emails. We found that nine of them matched pictures uploaded by Froelicher in 2008 to a public album that has since been made private.

Read the rest of this article here.