When Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari arrived on the Internet scene, activists and bloggers across the world were entranced by her tales as a young lesbian women living in Syria, skirting with danger and fleeing from “Them.” She used her blog, “A Gay Girl In Damascus,” to voice her experiences in Syria and broadcast them to the eager public waiting to believe Amina’s story.
The only issue was that no one had actually seen or spoken to this Amina person, aside from exchanging emails. We recently wrote about the mystery of Amina and how the recent claim of Amina’s kidnapping sparked deeper investigations into her identity.
Turns out Amina, the 25-year-old lesbian Syrian blogger running from the government, is actually Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old married and bearded dude at Edinburgh University studying for his masters.
His wife is studying Syrian economic development at St. Andrews in Edinburgh as well. For years MacMaster has been pretending to be Amina for the sake of “getting the information out.” He had communicated with many people as “Amina” through the Internet, sometimes striking up long-distance friendships through hundreds of emails.
According to the Guardian:
Listen, Tom, doing a little role-playing with the wife is totally fine, but not when you pretend to be a lesbian Syrian blogger and then go “JK you guys, I was just kidding.”
On June 6th, Amina’s cousin posted that Amina had been taken by armed government men in the street. As you would expect, cries rang out across Syria, prompting activists and journalists to put their lives on the line to figure out what had happened to their favorite spunky blogger. That’s when Tom MacMasters went to far.
The U.S. State Department and other organizations started looking into the matter and discovered that Amina didn’t really exist outside of the Internet. The IP address led investigators to a computer in Scotland and the pictures that Amina put up of herself turned out to be someone totally different. Eventually it led MacMaster to update the blog to take full responsibility for the Amina character. He went on to state that “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone” and “While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground.”
But how about the thousands of people following Amina and joining Facebook groups to free her? Let’s see what the rest of the world has to say, shall we?
According to Yahoo! News:
And The Telegraph:
So after the entire thing broke, you’d think that at least MacMaster and his wife would try and stem the tide of rising indignation against them, providing benefits for the creation and continuation of Amina. But according to NPR, MacMaster’s wife stated that, “We are on vacation in Turkey,” she wrote, “and just really want to have a nice time and not deal with all this craziness at the moment.”
In an interview with the Washington Post on Friday, MacMaster responded:
Start writing, Tom. Oh, and this time, don’t claim to be a Native American princess or something.
We’re on to you.
UPDATE: This peculiar story has taken yet another twist, as Paula Brooks, founder of the Lez Get Real blog that republished Amina’s work and communicated with her, has been revealed to be Bill Graber, a 58-year-old retired Ohio military man and construction worker. Amazing: two dudes pretending to be lesbians online, neither knowing the other’s secret, trying to change the world one blog post at a time.