Conflict & Justice

Tom MacMaster, American man, behind Gay Girl in Damascus blog


A screen grab shows the main page of the Syrian parliament's official website after it was hacked by Syrian opposition activists on April 29, 2011.



The Gay Girl in Damascus blog that attracted worldwide attention for shedding light on life inside war-torn Syria has been revealed to be a hoax. It was not being written by a gay girl, or by anyone in Damascus.

Instead, a married American man studying in Scotland, Tom MacMaster, is reportedly behind the blog.

The blog detailed life inside Damascus at a time of political uncertainty and turmoil. It was considered well written and developing a following around the world by those interested in the events unfolding in Syria and the greater Middle East, including journalists who tracked the blog.

When reports emerged that the alleged writer of the blog, 25-year-old Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari, was kidnapped by Syrian forces, there was an outpouring of support and concern. The United States government began looking into the case because the woman was allegedly part Syrian and part American.

But then doubts began to arise.

A photograph allegedly of the blogger was published, but it turned out to be of a woman living in London. The U.S. embassy learned there was no person registered matching her identity, and it emerged that no one had actually spoken to the blogger.

The news that the whole thing was hoax has angered activists who followed the blog religiously.

"One day if I'm kidnapped by my government, many readers won't care because I could turn out to be another Amina," wrote one Lebanese blogger, according to BBC.

MacMaster, a 40-year-old Edinburgh University masters student, wrote an "apology to readers" on the blog Sunday, admitting his role in the hoax.

"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 wrote.

"I do not believe that I have harmed anyone - I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about."

He signed it, "Best, Tom MacMaster, Istanbul, Turkey, July 12, 2011, The sole author of all posts on this blog."