From: The First Post
It's the story that's had western bloggers, journalists and human rights crusaders up in arms. When Amina Abdalla Arraf, a US/Syrian lesbian blogger and staunch critic of President Assad, was kidnapped by the Syrian authorities for daring to express her opinions, more than 14,000 people rushed to join a Facebook group to campaign for her release.
Reporters Without Borders issued a press release condemning the abduction. In a short space of time, Amina became the poster girl for the anti-Assad protests sweeping across Syria.
"We ask all those who care about Amina to send this message to the Syrian embassy in your country to show the regime that the world is very much aware of Amina's case and will not let the Syrian regime get away with any harm that might come to her," declared the 'Free Amina Abdalla' Facebook site.
It's unlikely, however, that any harm will come to Amina. That's because she doesn't appear to exist.
On Wednesday, a Croatian woman living in London, Jelena Lecic, revealed that the photographs of Amina were actually photographs of her, stolen from her Facebook profile. Meanwhile, a Canadian woman who claimed to have been Amina's girlfriend has admitted she had never actually met her. The Guardian reports that no one has been identified who can confirm they have ever met Amina or spoken to her by Skype or telephone.
At the same time, US officials in Damascus have been unable to confirm that they have records of Amina Abdalla Arraf. Neither do the authorities in Virginia, the US state where the self-styled 'Gay Girl in Damascus' said she was born. Meanwhile, a search of the IP address on which the celebrated blogger contacted a US blog editor has been traced to a server in Scotland.
It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Amina Abdalla Arraf affair has been one big elaborate hoax, designed to further discredit the Syrian regime abroad. If that's the case, it wouldn't be the first time that gullible westerners have been taken in, hook, line and sinker, over alleged human rights abuses in far-away countries which are not in the West's good books.
In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, stories emerged of a people shredder, which Saddam Hussein dumped his opponents into. "See men shredded, then say you don't back war," was the headline for a piece the Labour MP Ann Clwyd wrote in the pro-war Times. The story was seized on by neo-con and liberal interventionists as proof of the total depravity of Saddam's regime, bolstering the case for war.