Campaigners slam hoax Syrian lesbian blogger

RIGHTS campaigners have reacted furiously after a US student based in Scotland unmasked himself as the author of the “Gay Girl in Damascus” blogs, which charted the security crackdown in Syria.

Tom MacMaster, 40, an Edinburgh University masters student, admitted he created Amina Abdullah, a fictional Syrian blogger.

The Amina character rose to fame for her reports on the pro-reform movement, posting as “an out Syrian lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on”.

Last Tuesday, someone claiming to be her cousin wrote that Amina had been snatched by three armed men and bundled into a car bearing a pro-government window sticker.

The report sparked a wave of alarm among online followers. Nearly 15,000 followers joined a “Free Amina” group on Facebook .

MacMaster came clean on Sunday, after doubts began to emerge as to whether Amina was real. He admitted that he was the sole author of the posts.

“I never expected this level of attention,” MacMaster wrote in an entry entitled “Apology to readers”.

“I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about,” MacMaster added.

The Guardian newspaper, which called the blog an “arrogant fantasy” said that, in recent days, bloggers had uncovered evidence that pointed towards MacMaster.

The revelation of the hoax has sparked fury among followers of the blog, particularly those who campaigned for Amina’s release.

“The situation in Syria is too dire for this sort of gameplaying!” said one Facebook comment.

MacMaster accepted he may have made it harder for bloggers within Syria, and that he had inadvertently backed up government claims that there were no problems in the country and that it was all “foreign lies”.

Meanwhile, Syrians continued to pour across the border to refugee camps in Turkey, fleeing a military crackdown on a northern town that was spinning out of government control.

Soldiers regained control of Jisr al-Shughour on Sunday, sending in tanks and helicopter gunships after shelling the town.

Syria’s government has claimed that 500 members of the security forces have died, including 120 last week in Jisr al-Shughour.

More than 1,400 Syrians have died and some 10,000 have been detained in government crackdowns since March, activists say.

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