Skeptics had recently become suspicious of the “A Gay Girl in Damascus” blog and the existence of its author, allegedly a 35-year-old lesbian living in Syria. Today it was revealed that the whole thing is indeed a big hoax.
The site is written a by 40-year-old man from Georgia currently living in Scotland. The man, Tom MacMaster, published a new blog post today titled "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.
The Washington Post had questioned MacMaster about the identity of the Syrian girl (the pseudonym he came up with was Amina Arraf) as early as four days ago. The Post reports:
In telephone interviews and e-mail exchanges with The Post over the past three days, MacMaster initially denied any connection to Amina. He insisted he had never heard of her before the news of the arrest and that he had been unaware of the blog. “Look, if I was the genius who had pulled this off, I would say, ‘Yeah,’ and write a book.”
MacMaster responded to a question from "Electronic Intifada" saying that he will soon further explain his actions with members of the media: "Yes. We will be doing a first interview with a journalist of our choice in 12-24 hours. After that, we may consider other media."
The blog Lez Get Real had posted entries created by MacMaster to their site over the last few months, the whole time believing they had indeed been written by a lesbian named Amina Arraf. Lez Get Real's staff issued an angry response directed at MacMaster for intentionally deceiving them:
"And you have the unmitigated arrogance to think you can issue an apology to YOUR readers and not to us. You have put us through a week of hell – calling in favors to rescue someone who doesn’t exist and losing us the support of people who were working with us for American rights. You have damaged your own cause, with people all over the world fighting over which fanatics you represent. What you did was stupid, irresponsible and unworthy of the people you claim to care about."