Gay girl in Damascus is really a dude in Turkey (and Scotland)

Posted by Starr Keshet

Tom MacMaster - who is currently vacationing in Istanbul, Turkey (but lives in Scotland) - says he is very sorry for pretending to be a lesbian blogger in Damascus.

Writing as Amina Arraf (aka Amina Abdalla), MacMaster penned an intricate, yet utterly false tale about a Syrian-American activist who was brutally kidnapped by the Assad regime.

Gay girl in Damascus is really a dude in TurkeyMacMaster managed to bring international attention to Arraf's supposed plight, with a Facebook "support" page attracting nearly 14,000 users of the social networking site. 

Although Amina Arraf was just a figment of MacMaster's imagination, the author of "A Gay Girl in Damascus," insists "the facts [related] on the blog are true and not misleading."

However, MacMaster did issue an official apology to "anyone" he may have hurt or harmed in any way.

"I am really truly sorry and I feel awful about this. Words alone do not suffice to express how badly I feel about all this. I betrayed the trust of a great many people, the friendship that was honestly and openly offered to me, and played with the emotions of others unfairly," MacMaster wrote in a confessional blog post. 



"I have distracted the world's attention from important issues of real people in real places. I have potentially compromised the safety of real people. I have helped lend credence to the lies of the regimes. I am sorry. I have hurt people with whom I share a side and a struggle. That matters. I have hurt causes I believe in sincerely. That is wrong."



MacMaster went on to claim that he invented the story of Amina because he had always "wanted to write fiction," but was met with "universal rejection."

As such, MacMaster took a "serious look" at his own work and realized he could not "write conversations" in a natural way nor could he convincingly create realistic characters within the context of conventional stories.

"I [also] saw lots of incredibly ignorant and stupid positions repeated on the Middle East... So, I invented her. First, she was just a name. Amina Arraf. She commented on blogs and talkbacks on news-sites. Amina came alive. I could hear her 'voice' and that voice and personality were clear and strong. Amina was funny and smart and equal parts infuriating and flirtatious.

"She struggled with her religious beliefs and sexuality, wondered about living in America as an Arab; she wanted to find a way to balance her religion and her sexuality, her desire to be both a patriotic American and a patriotic Arab...And everything spiraled out of control. I couldn't think of how to shut Amina down but... It just kept on growing... And now, I have ended it. She is me. She never really existed. I feel like I am in some ways the worst person in the world."



MacMaster also emphasized that t he wanted "to turn the focus away" from the hoax and urge everyone to concentrate on the activists struggling to bring freedom to the Arab world.

"I have only distracted from real people and real problems. Those continue; [so] please focus on them..."