Thursday, 9 June 2011

Lies and Confusion

So today i have to write a story that's surprised me quite a lot, one i really don't know what to make of yet and perhaps won't be able to for quite a while.

As i stated in my blog on Tuesday evening the Syrian blogger that i have admired the work of Amina, was reported to have been arrested by the Syrian security forces. There is still no news on the location or condition of her and i will be sure to report anything when i read it.

However what is unusual and unnerving is that there is now a lot of speculation as to whether Amina is who she says she is. A number of newspapers have now taken a photo (below) off of their website that they were previously stating was Amina after a girl from London claimed that it was actually a photo of her.

Jelena Lecic, from London, claims that the photos used all over the internet in the past week as a picture of Amina are actually of her. So far that hasn't been confirmed but it's only added to the speculation as to the identity of the Syrian blogger.

Then there's the fact that the American embassy in Syria can't find any record of a woman by her name in Damascus, so aren't able to offer consular assistance to the woman, if she is in prison and is actually an American citizen.

Since the speculation began earlier today a large number of national newspapers, internet bloggers and interested neutrals have been scrambling to find some proof of the girl's identity. People want to know whether there even is a half American, half Syrian lesbian writer and revolutionary. I'm one of those people; the thought had occurred to me that she seemed almost too good to be true but she seems so real, honest and detailed in her posts. I'm not going to speculate too much but the evidence on The Guardian and Andy Carvin's twitter feed isn't filling me with confidence that this won't turn out to be some sort of hoax. I'm going to leave the investigative journalism and speculation to people who have a greater level of experience, contacts and incentive (i.e they're getting paid to find out this stuff, i'm tired after a few days of work experience).

That does bring up the next question, is it a hoax being executed by someone who is not even in Syria, or is it a deliberate effort by the Syrian blogger to create a false trail so as to keep the security forces away. I really hope it's the latter because i'd find it quite depressing to learn that it was all someone just writing fiction. The blog posts were seriously inspirational and challenging, arguing about some of the big issues facing the Arab spring, Islam and homosexuality in general.

There is a perfectly good possibility that it is just a deliberate effort on the writer's part to try and avoid detention; writing under pseudonyms and under a false identity is fairly standard procedure when writing in a situation where there is a very real chance of violent repercussions for speaking out against a repressive regime. The worrying fact is that if it is a pseudonym, unless her family comes out with the real name, thus confirming the Syrian security forces suspicions that they've got the right person, it will be impossible for the world to put real pressure on the Syrian government to release her.

If it does turn out to be a hoax then I don't feel any shame in having been taken in by the lie, if it is an impostor then they have fooled the majority of the Western media.

Until i see anything resembling proof i'm going to do my best to reserve judgement either way but it's tough when i've invested quite a bit of interest and affection in the blog and drawn a huge amount of inspiration from the story of the brave, determined Syrian who kept blogging even after it became clear that the Syrian authorities were aware of her and trying to track her down.

The one conclusion it seems overly stubborn to refuse to arrive at is that it seems unlikely whoever the 'Gay Girl in Damascus' is, she's probably not called Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari.

I hope that all of the political prisoners in Syria are released and there somehow is some kind of positive solution to the unrest as on top of the obvious benefits of potential democracy and a decrease in violent repression, there's the chance that we will get some answers on this topic. Sadly however i suspect that it will be nowhere near that clear cut, because in the world of political unrest, oppressive governments and the potential anonymity of the internet, nothing is ever that clear cut.

Today, instead of one song i'm going to post a link to a Guardian page where they are streaming the new eponymous Bon Iver album in it's entirety. It's well worth a listen, in my opinion a little more varied than the superb first album, but i'm not certain after only hearing it once whether that's a change for better or for worse.

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