Posted at 04:48 PM ET, 04/27/2011

Syrian blogger says she faced arrest but remains defiant


Syrian anti-government protesters gather near coffins of activists who were killed on Friday during their funerals in Quaboun near Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 23, 2011. (Mobile phone image)
 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.

Since February, a young Syrian-American English teacher has been blogging from Damascus about politics and what it’s like to be gay in Syria.

In the past few months, Amina Abdallah has written more often about the anti-government protests and the brutal crackdown by police that left more than 450 dead.

“When the Arab revolutions began, I realized I wanted to get my voice out there,” Abdallah says.

Wednesday, her voice got out there in a more profound way after a blog post she wrote went viral. In the post, she tells of a visit two security service men, wearing black leather jackets and carrying pistols, made to her house in the middle of the night. They had come to arrest her for her blog, “A Damascus Gay Girl.”

The men told Abdallah and her father that she was wanted for “conspiring against the state, urging armed uprising, and working with foreign elements.”

The security men also mocked Abdallah for being gay, using crude language to describe her actions and goad her father. Being gay in Syria is not easy — a teenager was brutally beaten into a coma and then jailed for being gay in Syria in 2008.

Nor is it easy to be a blogger. Dozens of Web sites are inaccessible in the country, Facebook and YouTube was once banned, and a teenager has been previously convicted of espionage and sentenced to five years in prison for political poetry.

“We know that the security services watch the Internet.  They keep track of Syrians worldwide so most people have been scared,” Abdallah said when reached by email.

“But that fear is evaporating as they cannot catch us all. [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.”

Abdallah says she has a greater responsibility to act without fear because she is protected by her dual citizenship and her family’s social class and connections.

While the U.S. has taken no action to stop the violent government crackdown in Syria and repression of the Internet, Abdallah doesn’t think the U.S. should. In a blog post entitled “Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Obama,” Abdallah writes:

I am a believer in our struggle for democracy and, like many others of us inside Syria, I do not want foreign ‘help’. If, Mr. Obama, your fine words about democracy and freedom are to prove true, you will not offer us the poisoned cup of assistance; you will not send bombs to rain on our cities, nor kill our misguided brothers. You will let us find our own path to freedom.

Abdallah intends to stay in the country “until democracy comes,” though she admits that a civil war could also be the end result.

“The dictatorship of the party will not go easily, so civil war is possible, which will be a many sided affair and everyone will lose,” she says. “But socially, we are more ready for [a democratic state] than Egypt.”

The night the security forces came to Arraf’s home, this is how it ended, according to Abdallah in a blog post entitled “My Father, The Hero”: Her father defended her. He reminded the security men of his family’s connections.

And then he told them: “Your Bashar [the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad] and your Maher [the president’s brother], they will not rule forever, and you both know that. If you want good things for yourselves in the future, you will leave and you will not take Amina with you.”

The men paused, and then told Abdallah'sand her father: “Go back to sleep. ... We are sorry for troubling you.”

After they left, Abdallah's neighbors and family, who had been watching from balconies and doorways and windows, started to cheer.

Read Abdallah's full story here.

By  |  04:48 PM ET, 04/27/2011

 
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