"A Gay Girl in Damascus" turns out to be an American dude
Melissa Bell and Elizabeth Flock at the Washington Post have the details on this elaborate hoax which went awry as skeptical people began noticing inconsistencies and started combing the internet for more information.
Video above is from BBC Newsnight on Wednesday, featuring a woman from London who had hundreds of her Facebook images stolen so that MacMaster could create a more elaborate and convincing ruse. The photo at bottom is from Thomas J. MacMaster's own Facebook page. MacMaster had lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
In recent days, the world has followed closely the saga of Amina Araff, the blogger who presented herself online as “A Gay Girl in Damascus” and who drew attention with her passionate writings about the Syrian government’s crackdown on Arab Spring protesters. Those writings stopped last Tuesday, and a posting to the blog, ostensibly written by a cousin, said she had been hauled away by government security agents.
News of her disappearance became an Internet and media sensation. The U.S. State Department started an investigation. But almost immediately skeptics began asking: Has anyone ever actually met Amina? Two days after her disappearance, images presented on her blog as being of Amina were revealed to have been taken from the Facebook page of a London woman.
And on Sunday, the truth spilled out: The gay girl in Damascus confessed to being a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.
The persona he built and cultivated for years — a lesbian who was half Syrian and half American — was a tantalizing Internet-era fiction, one that Tom MacMaster used to bring attention to the human rights record of a country with severe media restrictions that make traditional reporting almost impossible.
On Sunday, MacMaster wrote an apology on his blog, “While the narrative voice 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.”
Dumbass. MacMaster ("Amina") also had what was described in the media as a girlfriend in Montreal. Isn't that just lovely....