As many of you must know by now, this whole story, beginning with the articles about the brave gay girl from Damascus was a hoax. Amina is a fictitious character created by a 40 year old American straight man who thought it would be alright to create both appreciation and apprehension about an unreal spunky gay girl daring the restrictions of Syria. And I, knowing that all things gay are now in the global air for barterings as markers of good states and bad states, feeling a little disquieted by the feel goodness of the story and then it sudden tragic turn, helped to promote the story of Amina, seeing so clearly her struggle to breath, her terror as she is whisked into the black car and out of our caring sight.
Tom MacMaster, pictured with his wife beside him, writes: "I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground. 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." I understand now that I have a lot to learn about the wonders of blogging, of this immediate unreal world that makes us feel as if we are part of important real things. I have to question my own reactions--the rush of good feelings I had when I first read about one gay young woman, blending two worlds, refusing to bow to the strictures of either one, how deeply I wanted this to be true and how deeply I wanted her to be safe, to be allowed to exist. Perhaps MacMaster has never felt the grip of a policeman's hands on his queer body, he has never I assume, covered his lesbian face, in preparation for the punch that was coming, never felt the terrors of being queer on so many of the world's streets and no matter how he paints his game as an act of support, he has no idea of the suffering, the real worry he caused so many because we know what is possible, in America as well as in Syria. He says, "I never expected this level of attention." He means, I never thought that a gay Syrian-American young woman would ever matter so much to anyone and her "brutal" treatment would ever cause real pain. He was wrong. I and others, long for chimeras of refused identities, of hybridities of courage and of culture and so the gay girl who wore a scarf, who gave in to no simple manipulation from either side became a moment of life's possibilities for us. I longed for Amina, not to prove Syria bad and all things gay good, but because she was the hope of the unexpected and what I found was a silly American man who thinks he has hurt no one, a very American defense.
And who was I to think I had to rush to the defense of this young woman, to spread the word, to write on the face book page, this 71 year old woman who now sits in a small house on quiet street in West Brunswick in Melbourne, Australia--who saw the living face of lesbian courage in the meeting rooms of Belgrade, perhaps it was the faces of Tanja and Nela and all the others that I saw in Amina's place, hating hands blocking their needed air, that made me so needful to let others know we were watching, caring about the fate of this invented woman. My own egotism, that I can save, that through these words moving across the screen, my reproducing the artful details of the kidnapping, a story so easily retold, would Alert the World. Now I am learning to be more careful but not less concerned, to question my own sense of the rightness of my understandings--Identities are created on this imagined place, identities always a rich and contradictory place now take on more and more the acts of the imagined real. I am always learning. there will be more of this. I leave my original resposnse to the unreal story for your own thoughts.
"I just received chilling words from Shebar. The young woman who took joy in confounding the decrees and expectations of several cultures while respecting that which was holy to her has been abducted from the streets of Damascus:
6 June 2011
"Dear friends of Amina,
I am Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari's cousin and have the following information to share.
Earlier today, at approximately 6:00 pm Damascus time, Amina was walking in the area of Abbasid bus station, near Fares al Khouri Street. She had gone to meet a person involved with the Local Coordinating Committee and was accompanied by a friend.
Amina told the friend that she would go ahead and they were separated. Amina had, apparently identified the person she was to meet. However, whole her companion was still close by, Amina was seized by three men in their early 20's. According to the witness, the men were armed. Amina hit one of them and told the friend to go find her father.
One of the men put his hand over Amina's mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad. ...Amina's present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus."
6 June 2011
Update on Amina
"I have been on the telephone with both her parents and all that we can say right now is that she is missing. Her father is desperately trying to find out where she is and who has taken her..."
I remember the light articles that appeared in Western newspapers about the US-Syrian gay young woman who was posting her complexities on her website damascusgaygirl; the story was treated as a charming oddity, an unexpected modern voice but Amina was more aware of her cultural meaning, claiming the right to be an observant Muslim as well as a young woman touched by the power of the West. Now she is in danger, no longer a cool interruption to the usual narratives. I hope with the deepest hope possible she will not be seen as a symbol by either side but as a young woman who has the right to life. I hope with the deepest hope possible she will come home soon."