Gay rights activists in Syria have reacted angrily after discovering that a blog supposedly written by a lesbian in Damascus was in fact the work of a married American man in Scotland.
Tom Macmaster, a 40-year old studying for a masters in Edinburgh, has admitted being the author of the blog, entitled A Gay Girl in Damascus, which has grown in popularity and attracted the attention of the world’s media since it started in February.
In an update on the blog, Macmaster apologised for the deceit, saying that “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.” He added “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone.”
However, genuine gay rights activists in Syria are furious.
Writing on the gaymiddleeast.com website, Sami Hamwi and Daniel Nassar accused Macmaster of endangering the lives of real gays in Syria. “To Mr. MacMaster, I say shame on you!!!” says Hamwi. “There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism.”
Nassar writes “Because of you, Mr. MacMaster, a lot of the real activists in the LGBT community became under the spotlight of the authorities in Syria. These activists, among them myself, had to change so much in their attitude and their lives to protect themselves from the positional harm your little stunt created. You have, sir, put a lot of lives, mine and some friends included, in harm’s way so you can play your little game of fictional writing.”
The blog was initially to describe Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari’s life as a lesbian in a Syrian society that frowns on homosexuality. In June, a post in the name of one of Amina’s cousins claimed that Amina had been seized by armed men on a street in Damascus led to several campaigns for her release on social media websites. It is around this time that suspicions began to be raised over the blog’s authenticity.
Macmaster is currently said to be on holiday in Istanbul with his wife.