Yesterday, media reports ran rampant about a popular lesbian blogger who was allegedly kidnapped by armed men in Damascus earlier this week. While the woman's story has captivated many, inconsistencies are leading some journalists to question her very existence.
The blogger who is purportedly named Amina Arraf, but who writes under the name Amina Abdallah, regularly discusses her experience as a lesbian and a Muslim, while criticizing the Syrian government's citizen crackdown. Her blog is entitled "A Gay Girl in Damascus" and she is said to have both American and Syrian citizenship.
Media reports were kicked off earlier this week after the following message was posted on Amina's blog (written by a woman who claim's to be her cousin):
Earlier today, at approximately 6:00 pm Damascus time, Amina was walking in the area of the Abbasid bus station, near Fares al Khouri Street. She had gone to meet a person involved with the Local Coordinating Committee and was accompanied by a friend.
Amina told the friend that she would go ahead and they were separated. Amina had, apparently, identified the person she was to meet. However, while her companion was still close by, Amina was seized by three men in their early 20’s. According to the witness (who does not want her identity known), the men were armed. Amina hit one of them and told the friend to go find her father.
While this is certainly concerning, some journalists are skeptical not only about the story, but also about Amina true identity. Yesterday, pictures that were thought to be of the blogger were widely distributed through various media outlets. Hours later, it was reported that these images are of someone else entirely. The Wall Street Journal has more:
London publicist said Wednesday that the photos circulating on the Web and in the media show someone else entirely. The photos are of Jelena Lecic, who lives in London, according to publicist, Julius Just. A press release he distributed includes a photo of a woman who he says is Ms. Lecic, who appears to be the same woman in the photos accompanying stories about Ms. Araf. Mr. Just said Ms. Lecic’s ex-husband contacted him when he saw that the photos circulating of Ms. Araf were in fact of his ex-wife.
Ms. Araf’s story has drawn skeptics. NPR’s Andy Carvin and the New York Times’ Lede blog and raised questions over Ms. Araf’s circumstances, as nobody has been able to verify that they have in fact met Ms. Araf in person and that she is in fact behind the blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus.”
Earlier today, The Washington Post jumped in and also presented information that questions whether or not the Syrian-American blogger exists at all. According to the Post:
Paula Brooks, an American blogger started communicating with Arraf via e-mail, but was initially suspicious about her identity when she saw the location of Arraf’s I.P. address. It seems to have been routed through Edinburgh in Scotland. Arraf told Brooks she occasionally used proxy Web addresses to protect her safety in Syria, a procedure some Middle East bloggers have turned to under Internet blockades. The two spoke regularly on e-mail and chat.
Supporters claim that everyone should err on the safe side and assume that someone, whether it is Amina or another person entirely, has been abducted. Others are cautious and wonder whether the entire story has been fabricated from the start. Interestingly, a woman named Sandra Bagaria is said to be Amina's "partner" and "close friend" (she lives in Montreal) but she has yet to physically meet the missing blogger.
What do you think? Is Amina's story true or are there too many inaccuracies? Watch below for a video report on this story: