This is the face of the Gay Girl in Damascus – look carefully

Tom MacMaster

This is the face of the Gay Girl in Damascus.

The situation in Syria is serious very serious.  Every day people are dying – both sides seem be firmly locked into their positions and willing to fight; the rest of world is lining up on one side or the other.  The west, most of Arab world and the United Nations are calling for the Syrian government to cease and desist.  Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas support Assad and his government.   As I have said before, Syria is one of the more difficult countries in the region to understand; the news coming out Syria is polarized and is suspect at best.  Syria is not the only place that is true, but this blog is really about news coming out of Syria.

A lack of constant on the ground reporting and some attempt at objective reports is a big change from what we came to expect from the Arab Spring as Egypt modeled it for us.  During those exciting days of demonstrations and the weakening of Mubarak’s regime, we got used to constant updates.  We saw the events unfold live and listened to Egyptians sitting in Tahir Square tell us what they saw and felt.  Egypt was unusual only because its collapse was the first such event after cell phones became so ubiquitous.

The use of current technology to produce a constant stream of information has become the norm.  No longer to we have to wait for a photographer or the news-live-at-8 television crew to arrive to show us the gory details.  There is someone with a cell phone sure to be on the scene; a someone is on the scene at every event happening in the world.  They flash their pictures and sometimes their commentary to the world showing us the waves of a tsunami rolling onto beach or flames of a fire burning a house as the occupants escape, except one child and a dog.  And then we witness a miracle and see a ten year old boy leap from a second story window with the family dog in his arms. Never before in the history of the reporting of news has such live on the scene pictures and narrative been possible.

We have grown used to this new kind of reporting; an average person, an innocent bystander,  who  films events as they happens, not like the old television reporting, the scene after it is over – this is live with all of the excitement and drama of reality.  They also tell us about the events they are witnessing; they post the story on Facebook, tweet it to their friends (or the media) or text it to someone.  Some even create blogs and continue telling the story day after day as people did in Egypt.  Now we expect that kind of on the spot information, we demand it and we believe it.

That believing part can be a problem.  Recently a blogger, A Gay Girl in Damascus, was reported arrested and held in secret by the Syrian police.  There was no word from her, sympathizers and followers could only image the horrible fate she was suffering at the hands of the demented Syrian police.  We know the hate women, we know they think all women should be cloistered, we know they think all homosexuals should be killed – don’t we?  Well the first question would be how do we know all of those things – and the answer is simple, we don’t.  We have learned to project images on people and events in the Middle East based on the worse and most perverse instances of stoning or imprisonment for minor infractions that the person doing the reporting can find and use as an illustration.

The second question is really the primary one; how do we know there was a gay woman running around Damascus and writing a blog for the last four years?  Well, we read the blog – that proves it doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, it does not.  That person does not and never did exist; the writer is – and think carefully about this, it shows just how easily we can be tricked believing something.   The writer is an American student in Scotland, he is 40 years old and married and his is not a Muslim.  Now that his little ruse is exposed, he is apologizing, hoping he did not put anyone’s  life in jeopardy – wow, thanks and for the last four years while adding to the hate, mistrust and false information what words have you for that?  For years he has been writing this story; to him it was a work of fiction – no crime in that.  But at the same time he was putting his value system, his prejudice, his hates into his tale, one that readers accepted as truth.  He did not tell anyone it was fiction, he told them it was a true story.


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