Questions about the true identity of gay Syrian-American blogger Amina Abdallah Arraf, who was allegedly kidnapped by Syrian security forces on Monday, quickened late Wednesday night when a Croatian woman named Jelena Lecic appeared on the BBC to explain that hundreds of pictures purportedly showing Arraf on her Facebook page (which later appeared in news reports, including ours) were actually of Lecic. With the confusion over the photos at least partly resolved, and still no one stepping forward who has met Arraf in person, some journalists and non-journalists are now diving into Arraf's blog posts at A Gay Girl in Damascus, where she wrote provocatively about the Syrian uprising and her homosexual identity, to unearth fresh evidence about who Arraf is. Beyond the biggest red flag--an old blog by Arraf with content that also appears on A Gay Girl in Damascus in which she states that she's posting both fact and fiction--here are some of the passages that have been getting the most scrutiny, along with some reasons why:
MY FATHER, THE HERO (04/26/11)
In this post, Arraf recounts how Syrian security forces visited her home at night to detain her, only to be dissuaded by her father. This passage begins with her father speaking:
"So, if you want good things for yourselves in the future, you will leave and you will not take Amina with you. You will go back and you will tell the rest of yours that the people like her are the best friends the Alawi could ever have and you will not come for her again.
"And right now, you two will both apologize for waking her and putting her through all this. Do you understand me?"
And time froze when he stopped speaking. Now, they would either smack him down and beat him, rape me, and take us both away ... or ...
the first one nodded, then the second one.
"Go back to sleep," he said, "we are sorry for troubling you."
And they left!
Reason for Skepticism: Syrian sources tell NPR's Andy Carvin that, "given their collective experiences with Syrian security services, they simply did not believe it was possible her father could protect her by shaming them into leaving the house. They said the men would have dragged her way no matter what." The Telegraph adds, "It is rare for gay Arabs to speak openly about their sexuality, and even rarer for parents to defend them."
WHAT I WANT (05/08/11)
In this post, Arraf discusses her love of languages.
I like learning languages so I took Turkish classes, again well enough to get by … and I also studied enough Hebrew to read and sort of speak (once you learn the alphabet, it’s easy enough though Maltese is even easier)
Why Hebrew? Well, I had a crazy idea that it might be useful … and I might some day be a diplomat with need for Turkish and Hebrew …. Maybe even one day working in our embassy in Tel Aviv … or, thinking wildly, being part of the team that restores the Jaulan through negotiations …
I'd like that … I could see myself in such office one day, when the new Syria comes …
Reason for Skepticism: "In a part of the world where conspiracy theories involving Israel are common," writes Robert Mackey at The New York Times, the fact that the blog's author boasted of learning Hebrew and dreamed of living in Tel Aviv while allegedly writing from Syria triggered alarm bells for some bloggers. One Palestinian-American activist even speculated that the blog might even have been part of some elaborate, or just ill-conceived, intelligence ruse. Mackey adds that a NetLog profile with Arraf's name discovered on Wednesday stated that her native language was Hebrew.
A SYRIAN ROMANCE (04/28/11)
In this post, Arraf describes meeting her girlfriend when she returns to Syria from the U.S.
We talk and email and talk … and she wants to pick me up from the airport when I land.
And when she does, we are kissing in the airport itself, barely making it back to her apartment dressed … and, well, you can guess the rest …
Reason for Skepticism: A commenter at the blog Composite, who identifies herself as a Syrian-American named Nasim Khatib, writes, "That's a big red flag.. in Syria, making out with any gender is a BIG NO NO! let alone gay couple! and no one dares to do it!"
GONE UNDERGROUND (05/04/11)
In this post, Arraf describes not being able to reach her father by phone after the visit from state security forces:
A very, very dear (and, of course, quite gorgeous!) friend in Quebec emailed me that she was trying to call me at home and no one was answering. I was startled as my father should have been around. I'd left him at home by himself … and, well, he retired back to Damascus as his health is not what it had been. And, with my mother out of the country, I feel exceedingly responsible for him, making sure he has his pills, isn’t strainng himself and so on …
So, when she tried again and again with no response, I got worried.
As I have also been more than a little paranoid since my visit from security services, I decided to use a landline rather than my mobile. So, I went and called him from a public phone. No answer on the home number. No answer on his mobile; he’d turned it off (which isn’t that startling; he lets the battery run down all the time).
I decided to call our doorman; he told me that my dad had left, where he’d gone to and that I could call him there …
And he told me:
They came back for you. This time, there’s nothing I can do. Go somewhere and don't tell me where you are. Be safe. I love you.
Reason for Skepticism: NPR's Eyder Peralta explains that Arraf wrote this post after the "gorgeous" friend from Quebec--Sandra Bagaria--tried to call Arraf by phone for the first time. Bagaria, whom NPR interviews, says she corresponded with Arraf in 500 emails but has never met her in person, video chatted with her, or spoken to her on the phone.