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Thursday, June 9, 2011

‘A Gay Girl In Damascus’ Blog

**Note: This story was updated on June 13, 2011

Here & Now Guest:

Andy Carvin, NPR’s senior social media strategist

A photo that claims to show Amina Abdallah Arraf posted on a Facebook page calling for her release. A woman in London has since come forward to say this picture was of her, not the blogger. (FreeAminaArraf/Facebook)

A photo that claims to show Amina Abdallah Arraf posted on a Facebook page calling for her release. A woman in London has since come forward to say this picture was of her, not the blogger. (FreeAminaArraf/Facebook)

By: Kevin Sullivan, Here & Now

It’s hard to uncover the truth in Syria. The government has banned almost all journalists from coming into the country, so it’s difficult to verify stories coming out of the country.

And that’s the case with the blogger, who writes “A Gay Girl In Damascus.”

The blogger claims to be a Syrian-American named Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, who writes of being openly gay in Syria and criticizes the government.

On Monday, someone claiming to be her cousin wrote that the blogger was snatched by security forces.

But now there are questions as to whether the blogger even exists, after photos she posted of herself turned out to be of a different woman living in London.

The UK’s reports:

Angela Williams from the US embassy in Damascus told the Guardian that US officials had not been able to confirm any of the details in the blog, and had no records of someone of that name living in Damascus. “We and our colleagues in Washington are continuing to attempt to ascertain more information about Ms Araf, including confirmation of her citizenship. We are unable to make a consular representation to the Syrian authorities on Ms Araf’s behalf without first determining that she is a US citizen.”

In one of the blogger’s posts, she expressed frustration with the Syrian government, writing “Each day that goes on like this sees more anger at the regime, more justice that is demanded and not given. If I were them, I’d realize this. They cannot go on this way; they will lose, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next month…”

Previously, the blogger wrote that government thugs once tried to take her away, but were stopped by her father.

My dad glances at me. I nod; we understand each other.
“She is my daughter,” he says and I can see the anger growing in his eyes, “and she is who she is and if you want her, you must take me as well.

The blogger writes that her father eventually shamed the thugs into leaving her alone.

Andy Carvin, senior social media strategist for NPR, says it’s unclear whether the blogger was a Syrian dissident, using a fake identity to protect herself from the government, or whether the whole thing’s a hoax.

But Carvin concludes that tragically, “It is entirely possible that somewhere there is a woman sitting in a jail cell in Syria, while the rest of us debate her authenticity.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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