For over a week, an international campaign has grown — with growing media coverage from CNN, NPR, and other outlets — to support Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, a self-described 35-year-old lesbian who had been abducted in Syria after blogging about her life and dreams. The American-born Amina’s disappearance led to the creation of websites and set off demands for governmental inquiries and sanctions. She has now been found alive and well . . . and a man from Georgia with a rather twisted view of advocacy and integrity. Tom MacMaster, 40, a graduate student has now admitted that there is no Amina, no abduction, and only a very pathetic story about a man from Georgia.
The hoax began after MacMaster published two long comments from Amina on a Web site called Lez Get Real: A Gay Girl’s View of the World. What followed was an elaborate lie constructed around this character. This includes MacMaster’s continuing relationships with women around the world on the Internet under the guise of Amina.
He then reported that Amina was abducted and triggered an international sensation. I had seen the story and considered running an entry on this blog. It seemed to fit our subject matter perfectly on a number of common issues: gay rights, civil liberties, religion etc. However, there seemed only to be the blog as the foundation and I thought I would wait for the story to develop. Nevertheless, to be honest, I cannot claim any great insight. I could have easily run the story if I had not had a number of stories that were more developed at the time. Indeed, this shows how such stories take hold. Had I known that respected outlets like NPR and CNN had picked up the story, I might have run the story.
What is most disturbing is the layers of Weineresque lies that snowballed in case. MacMaster reportedly denied media queries on whether he was Amina before finally fessing up. Before his admission, a woman in London, Jelena Lecic, confirmed that the picture is not Amina but herself. She had no involvement in the hoax.
Here is MacMasters’ statements on A Gay Girl in Damascus
Apology to Readers:
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.
I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.
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.
However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.
July 12, 2011
The sole author of all posts on this blog
It is astonishing that MacMaster does not believe he hurt the people who developed relationships with Amina or the thousands of people who worked for her freedom. He appears to believe that the hoax still served the cause of civil liberties despite the appearance that such stories have to be manufactured by advocates. In the future, critics will use this case to cast doubt on the accuracy or legitimacy of claims of abuse of gays and lesbians around the world. They did not need MacMasters’ help to create a moving story and they certainly deserved better than the likes of Tom MacMaster.