For the past few days the gay blogosphere has blown up with news about the alleged kidnapping of dual-citizen Syrian-American lesbian blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari by Syrian secret police. A woman identifying herself as Araf’s cousin, Rania O. Ismail, added a post on Araf’s Damascus Gay Girl blog saying that three armed men in their early 20s grabbed Araf, carried her into a red Dacia Logan, and that Araf has not been seen ever since.
The most horrifying idea is that Ms. Araf is being tortured and raped this very moment, but the New York Times wonders if Araf is even real, seeing as no one has seemed to have actually met her. Then there’s the issue of the photo of Ms. Araf currently being used on Facebook and the media (pictured above). Apparently it’s the photo of a woman named Jelena Lecic who is not even connected to the Damascus Gay Girl blog. So is this entire story just a hoax and if so, does that even matter?
Yes, it matters. Journalists seek the truth and media outlets should strive to find out whether reported incidents actually occurred so our governments and citizens can make informed choices—it wouldn’t pay to have our State Department issue a call for the release of a Syrian-American who isn’t even real. But seen another way, Ms. Araf’s story—whether fictional or not—still highlights the very real arrests, detainment, torture, and murder happening against LGBT people in Syria today.
We’ve taken a look at Damascus Gay Girl. Ms. Araf has been posting very long posts about Syrian culture and the revolution since February 19th, 2011. If this is a hoax, an awful lot of effort went into it… kinda like a text-only version of the Lonelygirl15 hoax.