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Blog entry asserts 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' a hoax

Associated Press

CAIRO -- A new entry Sunday in a blog purportedly by a lesbian Syrian-American living in Damascus asserted that the entire saga was a hoax, supposedly written by a man.

The post, which came days after an entry saying the blogger had been arrested, was signed by "Tom MacMaster" in Istanbul, Turkey.

In it, the author says the narrative was fictional but insists it "created an important voice for issues I feel strongly about."

It says the author never expected so much attention.

On Tuesday, a blog post at the same site, "A Gay Girl in Damascus," supposedly written by the woman's cousin, said she had been detained in Damascus after weeks on the run.

The story unraveled quickly after a woman in Britain said the photos on the Facebook account of the blogger known as Amina Arraf were actually of her. The Associated Press reported her disappearance, confirmed by an activist in Damascus, but reporters in Virginia then could find no trace of Arraf or her family.

The author of the blog post on Sunday titled it "Apology to readers" but wrote "I do not believe that I have harmed anyone." There was no listing for MacMaster in Istanbul.

"I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in this year of revolutions," MacMaster wrote in Sunday's blog posting. "The events there are being shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience."

The Washington Post reported Sunday that it had corresponded with and spoken to MacMaster for several days and learned that he was a 40-year-old from the U.S. state of Georgia, a Middle East peace activist who is now working on his masters degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

In the post purportedly by Arraf's cousin, Rania Ismail, it said Arraf was last seen Monday being bundled into a car by three men in civilian clothes as she was on her way to meet someone at the activist Local Coordination Committees. Ismail said a friend accompanying her was nearby and saw what happened.

A reporter for The Associated Press, who maintained a monthlong email correspondence with someone claiming to be Arraf, found the writer seemed very much like a woman in the midst of the violent change gripping Syria. The writer spoke about friends in Damascus, and outlined worries about her father and hopes for the future of her country.

In the emails, the person acknowledged fudging some details of escaping from Syrian security officials to protect herself and her family, and painted a harrowing picture of fleeing her home.

Jelena Lecic, the woman whose photos were linked to Arraf's Facebook profile, said the London woman first learned her likeness was being used when it was linked to article about Arraf in the Guardian newspaper, her spokesman has said.

The spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

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I want to believe that a gay girl in Damascus has the opportunity to blog about her life… but it’s not reality, is it?

I enjoyed reading all of your posts your blog contain a lot of valuable information. You have done a nice job.

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