Posted at 08:45 AM ET, 06/07/2011

‘Gay girl in Damascus’ Syrian blogger allegedly kidnapped

Editor’s note: Amina Arraf, the Syrian blogger who is the subject of
this article, was later determined to have been the invention of Tom
McMaster, a 40-year-old American. On June 8, the BlogPost published an article questioning Arraf's existence. On June 12, McMaster admitted that the blog had been fiction. He said he had used Arraf as an online identity for at least five years.

The photo that was previously used with this article was taken down because it pictured Jelena Lecic, a London woman whose photo MacMaster had used for Amina Arraf.

A young Syrian-American teacher who has been blogging about the Middle East uprisings and what it’s like to be gay in Syria has been kidnapped, according to her family.

A dual citizen who was born in Virginia to an American mother and a Syrian father, Amina Abdallah was often outspoken in her criticism of the government on her blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus.”

When Blogpost interviewed Amina Abdallah in April, she told me then over email that she blogged despite the danger in doing so because “when the Arab revolutions began, I realized I wanted to get my voice out there.” Abdallah also believed herself to be relatively safe because she has relatives in the government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But when a person who introduced herself as Abdallah’s cousin took over her blog Monday, she wrote that Abdallah had been taken by three armed men when she was on her way to meet with protest organizers that day.

“Her father is desperately trying to find out where she is and who has taken her. Unfortunately there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs.We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back,” her cousin wrote.

Abdallah has written about her father before, in a blog post that attracted the attention of the international community called “My Father, My Hero,” in which she describes how her father saved her once before from being kidnapped by security forces.

Even after that incident, Abdallah refused to stop blogging.

“We know that the security services watch the Internet. They keep track of Syrians worldwide, so most people have been scared,” Abdallah told me in April.

Dozens of Web sites are inaccessible in Syria, Facebook and YouTube were once banned, and a teenager has been previously convicted of espionage and sentenced to five years in prison for political poetry.

“But that fear is evaporating as they cannot catch us all,” Abdallah had said. “[I feel that] if we want to live in a free country, we need to start acting as though we live in a free country.”

A Facebook page that calls for Abdallah to be freed gives information on how to contact U.S. officials to facilitate Abdallah’s release.

After her disappearance, a woman that is said to be Abdallah’s partner tweeted:

#FreeAmina OK I need to think straight now...Since lunch I cant eat. Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/FreeAminaArraf #Syrialess than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

By  |  08:45 AM ET, 06/07/2011

 
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