Arraf fake photo 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari vanished without a trace on June 6, when she was
allegedly kidnapped by Syrian state security, on the streets of
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Since then, an online campaign to garner her freedom has gone
viral, and millions have tuned in for news – any news – on Arraf’s
The problem is, Arraf may not exist.
The blog “A Gay
Girl in Damascus” (damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com) dealt with Arraf’s experiences
as a lesbian and anti-regime activist in Syria. It became an Internet sensation
shortly after the outbreak of the popular uprising against the Assad regime in
This week, the Internet has been abuzz with speculation that
Arraf’s tale is an elaborate hoax – possibly a sort of blogosphere “hearts and
minds” campaign against the Assad regime.
Questions began to emerge after
a woman purporting to be a cousin of Arraf’s, named Rania O. Islam, wrote a post
on Arraf’s blog Monday claiming the blogger was taken away by three plainclothes
Syrian state security officers and crammed into a car.
On Wednesday, a
publicist in London said that a photo circulating the web purportedly of Arraf,
is actually that of a Londoner named Jelena Lecic. The publicist said she was
contacted by Lecic’s ex-husband, who noticed that her photos were being used by
supporters of Arraf.
In a press release put out by the publicist on
Wednesday, Lecic – who is not Gay, Syrian, or a blogger – is quoted as saying “I
pray that Amina is safely returned to her family, but I want to make it quite
clear that I am not her, despite my photographs being attached to this story.”
Lecic said the pictures were taken from her Facebook account, but she had no
idea by whom.
Potentially making matters even stranger, Lecic’s
publicist, Julius Just of Just News International, does not appear to have any
clients other than Arraf, and the only place his PR company appears online is on
its own vague, single-page website.
Reporters covering the story have
been unable to find anyone who has actually met Arraf in person, and only a
handful have said that they corresponded with her, or someone purporting to be
Further cause for suspicion is the heading of a previous
blog run by Arraf in 2007 entitled “Amina Arraf’s Attempts at Art (and
Alliteration),” where underneath the title is written “this blog is ... where I
will be posting samples of fiction and literature I am working on.
blog will contain chapters and drafts. This blog will have what may sometimes
seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will
also be fiction.
And I will not tell you which is which.”
previous blog mainly covered the 35-year-old Arraf’s ruminations on her
childhood as a Syrian immigrant to the US, where she says she was raised by a
Syrian father and American mother in Virginia.
One aspect of the story,
with timing that appeared too good to be true, was the last blog post written by
Arraf before her disappearance, in a poem entitled “Bird Songs.”
final stanza of the 20-line poem reads “soaring and flying, freedom is coming,
here am I wanting to know it one day.”