Anorak News | Looking For Amina Abdullah Arf: The Gay Girl In Damascus Mystery – Is She A Fake?

Looking For Amina Abdullah Arf: The Gay Girl In Damascus Mystery – Is She A Fake?

by | 8th, June 2011

AMINA Abdulla Arf is missing. She is a Syrian-American lesbian blogger. You might have seen Amina Abdallah Araf being kidnapped in Damascus. A woman called Rania Ismail told the Associated Press about her cousin’s disappearance at the hands of three men in suits.

Ms. Araf is known on the web as A Gay Girl in Damascus. On Facebook she is a face of repression (see photo below).

Only, it’s not her face. The face you might have seen on the web – and can see here – is that of Coratian-born Londoner Jelena Lecic. Her Facebook page says she works at the Royal College of Physicians of London. Well, freedom fighters all look alike, don’t they?

You will recall the names Neda Soltani and Neda Agha-Soltan. One of those woman was shot dead in Iran during protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime. One was not:

The living Neda Soltani was disturbed to suddenly see her image being used everywhere, online, on television and in the press…

Because of the confusion, the ‘real’ Neda Soltani in the photo can no longer use her Facebook page or display her photo, and has fought an uphill battle trying to get individuals and the media to stop using it.

Ms Lecic issues a statement:

“I pray that Amina is safely returned to her family but I want to make it quite clear that I am not her despite my photographs being attached to this story.”

So. Where is Ms. Araf, who only began her Gay Girl blog in February 2011? On her blog, we get this version of events, and news that she has been missing since June 6:

Dear friends of Amina,

I am Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari’s cousin and have the following information to share.

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.

One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad. The witness did not get the tag number. She promptly went and found Amina’s father.

The men are assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia. Amina’s present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in a jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus.

I have just spoken with her father who is trying to locate her. He has asked me to share this information with her contacts in the hope that someone may know her whereabouts and so that she might be shortly released.

If she is now in custody, he is not worried about being in hiding and says he will do anything he can to free her. If anyone knows anything as to her whereabouts, please contact Abdallah al Omari at his home or please email me, Rania Ismail, at onepathtogod at gmail dot com.

We are hoping she is simply in jail and nothing worse has happened to her. Amina had previously sent me several texts to post should something happen to her and we will wait until we have definite word before doing so.


Rania O. Ismail

The Washington Post reported her words thus:

“I live in Damascus, Syria. It’s a repressive police state. . . . But I have set up a blog with my name and my photo. Am I crazy?”

Dunno. All we know is that there is no photo of the woman on her blog. However, the Washignton Post does feature a photo of a woman (se eiamge above). It is “courtesy of” one Sandra Bagaria. Who is she?

As soon as Arraf’s partner, Sandra Bagaria of Montreal, learned of her disappearance, she quickly turned to Twitter and Facebook for help, The New York Times reported.

But the photo is not of Amina. It’s of Lecic. Why would the missing woman’s lover apparently supply the wrong photo?

In 2007, Amina started a blog called Amina Arraf’s Attempts At Art (and Alliteration). What was it about? She told us:

This blog is … … where I will be posting samples of fiction and literature I am working on. This blog will contain chapters and drafts. This blog will have what may sometimes seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will also be fiction. And I will not tell you which is which. This blog will sample what I’m writing. This blog is not a diary. This blog is not about politics. This blog invites your comments.

So. Has anyone met her? CNN’s Catriona Davies quoted her in an article on gays being “sacrifical lambs” in the Arab sptring:

A Syrian woman who writes a blog called “A Gay Girl in Damascus” has gained international attention for her account of her father protecting her when security forces arrived at night to arrest her for “conspiring against the state.”

The blog’s author, Amina Abdallah, is a 35-year-old English teacher who says she returned to Syria last year after many years in the United States. In an email interview Abdallah said she believed that political change could improve gay rights.

She said: “A whole lot of long time changes are coming suddenly bubbling to the surface and views towards women, gay people and minorities are rapidly changing.”

Abdallah said the reaction to her blog had been “almost entirely positive.”

“What has really startled me has been the fact that I have received no criticism from Islamic sources,” she said. “Instead, they’ve been entirely positive.

“It’s sort of indicative of the sea change that’s happened here; suddenly people are working together, regardless of their other views, to achieve a single goal: a free Syria.”

Robert Mackey makes a call to Ms. Bagaria:

“I have no news. I am working as hard as I can, we all are, to gather as much information as I can gather. I talked to Rania yesterday at the end of the day, but she had no news. None of us have any news. What we are doing now is alerting as many people as possible in Syria to get as much information as we can. The blog is very popular and since yesterday word has spread on Twitter, and now people are spreading the news very quickly.”

Ms. Bagaria added that Ms. Arraf had been hiding in “four or five different apartments in four or five different cities” across Syria since two young men appeared at her home in Damascus several weeks ago.

“Amina woke up in the middle of the night and saw her father outside talking to two young guys in their early 20s. I think they were there just following orders, they didn’t know what they were doing,” Ms. Bagaria said. Although the two men eventually left without arresting the blogger that night, Ms. Bagaria said, “since that day, we agreed they might come back for her. It was only a matter of time.”

The NPR’s Andy Carvin calls on Twitter followers to tell him if they have met Amina. None says they have.

LezGetReal notes:

Questions regarding the account of Sandra Bagaria are now even surfacing. The woman who claimed to be Ms Araf’s partner has now confirmed that she was a personal friend of Ms Araf, but that the two had never actually met. They had never conversed even via Skype. They conducted an online relationship including some 500 e-mails, but that this had only been going on since January.

Does Amina Abdulla Arf exist? Is she a work of fiction..?

Posted: 8th, June 2011 | In: Key Posts, Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink