Syrian blogger Amina Abdallah kidnapped

Horrible news:

A blogger whose frank and witty thoughts on Syria’s uprising, politics and being a lesbian in the country shot her to prominence was last night seized by armed men in Damascus.

Amina Arraf, who blogged under the name Amina Abdallah, holds dual Syrian and American citizenship and is the author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, which has drawn fans from Syria and across the world.

She was kidnapped last night as she and a friend were on their way to a meeting in Damascus. The kidnapping was reported on her blog by a cousin.

“Amina was seized by three men in their early 20s. According to the witness (who does not want her identity known), the men were armed,” wrote Rania Ismail.

“Amina hit one of them and told the friend to go find her father. One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad.”

Basel is the brother of president Bashar al-Assad, and was being groomed for the presidency until his death in a car crash in 1994.

The Syrian government is holding some 10,000 people prisoner in reaction to the protests that began this spring. The regime is one of the most brutal in the world, and many detainees have been tortured and/or killed. I’m not really sure what else to add, other than I hope Amina is ok, and I would encourage you all to spread the word and keep the spotlight on this kidnapping. Maybe some international pressure will help to secure her release.

Thanks, Lauren, for the link.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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39 Responses to Syrian blogger Amina Abdallah kidnapped

  1. Kristen J. says:

    Holy hell. Is there any organized political action to pressure the feds into pressuring Syria? It might not do any good, but I’m going to at least call my Congress members.

  2. Shoshie says:

    :( This makes me feel sick. What terrible people.

  3. gretel says:

    Terrifying. I will definitely contact the U.S. State Department about this.

  4. Roisin says:

    How awful. No coverage of it here in the UK so thanks for raising the awareness.

  5. Yonmei says:

    Kristen J.: As you may already know, Amina Abdallah holds dual citizenship (born in Virginia, American mother and Syrian father) so it is well worth while calling your US political representatives. New York Times has the details.

    There is an online petition, but I’m inclined to think it won’t be as helpful as contacting the nearest Syrian embassy (in my case, London) with a polite letter or fax demanding to know (politely) where Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari is, and that she should be released unharmed.

    Twitter hashtag is #FreeAmina. There is a Facebook page where people are posting updates.

  6. Rare Vos says:

    this has me shaking – fear, anger, helplessness. THx for the links, Yonmei.

  7. tinfoil hattie says:

    I’m very worried. This makes my stomach hurt. Not helpful, I know. It’s just my visceral reaction.

  8. Raja says:

    I’ve read her blog, its really good. I hope she does make it out alright

  9. PrettyAmiable says:

    Has everyone read the updated conspiracy theory at the Times link that yonmei provided?

  10. William says:

    NYT has an update saying that seems to throw doubt on whether Abdallah actually exists. Can anyone throw any light on this? I’m only passingly familiar with her work (I’ve read linked posts a few times) but it seems like a really odd walk back.

  11. Nahida says:

    I heard about this woman a month ago, and I’m very scared for her now, and anyone claiming she never existed (WTF) is desperate.

  12. William says:

    Just to clarify, Nahida, I’m not saying she never existed. I’m just really confused because I’ve been peripherally aware of her for about as long as you have. If it was the Syrian government saying she didn’t exist I’d disregard it entirely, but coming from the NYT is just bizarre, you know?

  13. Nahida says:

    Oh, I know William. I didn’t mean to imply that you were saying she never existed. I just find it an unbelievable and preposterous thing for the NYT to suggest.

  14. thefallgirl says:

    Thank you for boosting this signal, I hope some pressure can be put on the Syrian government that will do some sort of good.

  15. Yonmei says:

    NYT has an update saying that seems to throw doubt on whether Abdallah actually exists. Can anyone throw any light on this?

    That it’s a fairly standard pattern with well-known bloggers in Arab countries expressing views which are at odds with the US/UK cultural expectations of those countries: to assert that they don’t really exist.

    The same suggestion was made about Riverbend and Salam Pax.

  16. Yonmei says:

    This is the letter I wrote via Avaaz:

    Dear Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton,

    On Monday 6th June an American-Syrian woman, Amina Arraf, was being kidnapped on the streets of Damascus.

    I found out about this on Tuesday, and I am still shaken and angry. Her father had courageously stood off a previous attempt to take her, in April. She became a public figure writing about events in Syria. She had harmed no one: all she did was write the truth about what she saw.

    She is herself, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer: she is also symbol of the courageous people of Syria peacefully calling for democracy. We urge you to use all diplomatic means to assist in ensuring her release and calling for the Syrian regime to stop the crackdown, and free the over ten thousand other men and women that have been detained.

  17. tinfoil hattie says:

    Apparently the photograph of “Arraf” featured on her facebook page is not Arraf at all. It is, instead a photograph of one Jelena Lecic, who says Arraf has used photos of her before.

  18. PrettyAmiable says:

    Yeah I just saw that too. WTF. I’m so confused.

  19. PrettyAmiable says:

    Link for the claim

  20. chava says:

    Why? If they cannot find anyone who has actually spoken to her, it seems like good journalism. In the age of Skype, someone with enough of an Internet connection to blog has enough of of one to conduct a VOIP interview, at the least, probably with a webcam.

    OTOH, the literally and metaphorical disappearance of lesbains, esp lesbians of color, is an all too familiar pattern.

    Nahida:
    Oh, I know William. I didn’t mean to imply that you were saying she never existed. I just find it an unbelievable and preposterous thing for the NYT to suggest.

  21. chava says:

    Ick, proofing fail, sorry. Literal, not literally. And lesbIans, not lesbAins.

  22. tigtog says:

    As the last link’s author states, my overwhelming feeling is one of relief that there is not in reality a young woman who has been kidnapped from her family and currently being incarcerated/tortured by the Syrian authorities.

    I can well imagine that the true author Thomas MacMaster never expected the blog to get this much attention, and that he meant mainly to highlight the issues around Syrian oppression. There’s some appropriation issues to unpack there though, surely. The Syrian regime will also now be able to dismiss everything he wrote about as fiction.

  23. DonnaL says:

    I guess someone owes the New York Times an apology. It did nothing wrong.

    Yes, it’s obviously a good thing is that the kidnapped woman doesn’t exist. But there’s no excuse for what McMaster did (there are other ways to highlight these issues), and his so-called “apology” is a classic faux apology. Pathetic. “Some” appropriation issues? The whole thing was an appropriation in every sense possible — a Western guy in Turkey pretending to be a lesbian woman in Turkey?

  24. evil fizz says:

    Here’s the astroturfing writer’s purported explanation/apology. He claims he hasn’t done any harm, which I find hard to believe, seeing as how he’s delegitimized the actual humans rights violations currently going on there. (Which allegedly includes the torture of kids.)

    This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

    I’m revolted.

  25. Krista says:

    tigtog:
    As the last link’s author states, my overwhelming feeling is one of relief that there is not in reality a young woman who has been kidnapped from her family and currently being incarcerated/tortured by the Syrian authorities.

    Sadly, there ARE actually a number of young women in this situation, even if “Amina Abdullah” is not one of them. Dorothy Parvaz wrote powerfully about some of the young people she encountered while imprisoned in Syria: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/2011518184325620380.html.

  26. DonnaL says:

    Some more commentary:

    http://gaymiddleeast.com/news/news%20317.htm

    http://hurryupharry.org/2011/06/12/amina-arraf-britta-froelicher-the-university-of-st-andrews/

    Perhaps not surprisingly, MacMaster — who lives in Edinburgh — is now being accused of being everything from an agent of Assad to an agent of the Mossad.

  27. “Sadly, there ARE actually a number of young women in this situation, even if “Amina Abdullah” is not one of them. Dorothy Parvaz wrote powerfully about some of the young people she encountered while imprisoned in Syria: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/05/2011518184325620380.html.”

    Yes. However, in this case it is entirely not true. When an blog post you write turns out to be entirely a fabrication, it’s your responsibility to post a retraction. It’s also good practice to put a statement to that effect in the original post, and a link to the retraction.

  28. Iany says:

    I am so angry that this was a hoax.

    It’s just another white guy getting his jollies pretending to be a gay woman of colour, without actually having to suffer for it. And there are real women suffering whose voices should be heard while he pretends his “character” has gone missing so he can watch the drama.

    Played us like fiddles and I hate that.

  29. Safiya Outlines says:

    Iany: Played us like fiddles and I hate that.

    The media was far too keen to make someone deemed as ‘Western Friendly’ a ‘figurehead’ of a uprising occurring amongst the poorest members of society who are decidedly not online (Internet penetration in Syria is still very low). I have no sympathy for them.

    I do feel very sorry for LGBT people in the Middle East who may have viewed Amina as someone to look up to.

  30. Nahida says:

    …Fucking bastard.

    Now I still feel like I lost someone, except she never existed. Somehow the feeling is still there. Like, I’m sad she isn’t real.

    At least she wasn’t kidnapped. Thank God.

  31. Iany says:

    I didn’t even know who she was until her disappearance was announced… But it affected me. I kept thinking what my life would’ve been liked if I’d had my orientation but different parents and different laws, an even more unaccepting culture. I was really worried for this woman I hadn’t met.

    Safiya, you’re right about the media, they deserve the moment of reflection which will hopefully be used well. I’m upset that I got suckered in by a man who was playing an ornate scam. I’m guessing other individuals who hang out around here and places like dailywh.at did too.

    Instead of a Syrian woman’s voice it was a parody of one. It’s personal anger on my end (irrational, I know) because it’s like gay people like me don’t exist again, our voices are just entertaining fictional accounts written by a privileged straight bloke (who didn’t even respect the culture Amina was supposed to have come from).

    I think the apology he posted makes it worse, at least for me.

  32. Natalia says:

    The “apology” is plain ridiculous.

  33. Iany says:

    Dempsejonez, we all know that now, yes.

  34. Iany:
    Dempsejonez, we all know that now, yes.

    Then why hasn’t a retraction been written? And why doesn’t the article note that the entire thing was a fabrication? It shouldn’t require a person to read through every comment to discover, that yes, COMMENTS acknowledge its falsity. They should be able to see it right in the article itself.

    Sloppy sloppy blogging.

  35. rayuela23 says:

    Aoirthoir An Broc: Then why hasn’t a retraction been written? And why doesn’t the article note that the entire thing was a fabrication? It shouldn’t require a person to read through every comment to discover, that yes, COMMENTS acknowledge its falsity. They should be able to see it right in the article itself.

    Sloppy sloppy blogging.

    yeah good on you you tell them.

    (Not really)

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