As pointed out by reader Seth Edenbaum here, it has now been confirmed that the 'Gay Girl in Damascus' blog is a hoax. The author, Tom MacMaster, has now published an apology on the blog, which is a pitiful attempt at recovering some dignity:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading 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 only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.
This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.
However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.
July 12, 2011
The sole author of all posts on this blog
This is disappointing in so many respects, and even the knowledge that there isn't somebody called Amina in prison after all doesn't attenuate things much. I am not yet entirely sure what the repercussions may be, but for one thing I can imagine that authoritarian governments will now have the 'hoax' card to play against blogs reporting on abuse and attacks on freedom. The credibility of bloggers doing the important work of bringing out to the world the appalling conditions of so many people living under dictatorial regimes is severely affected. The credibility of serious organizations which got involved, such as Avaaz, is also affected. For now, the hoax just strikes me as utterly irresponsible. Shame on you, Tom MacMaster.