08 June 2011

Courageous Syrian blogger abducted (updated)

 UPDATE: So it turns out that the "courageous Syrian blogger" was not a lesbian in Damascus but actually a married 40 year-old American man living in Scotland, reports The Guardian. Sadly, this kind of fiction is drained of its meaning once it is revealed to be fiction. This literary experiment probably set back the cause of gay rights in the Middle East or the West's being able to understand Syria, and that's unforgivable when things are so bad. I sincerely hope he doesn't get a book deal.

The title of Amina A.'s blog says it all: "A Gay Girl in Damascus" The four-month old blog is easily one of the bravest on the Internet. It agitates both for gay rights and against the government in one of the most repressive societies on earth, Bashar al-Assad's Syria. There is little expectation of anonymity since the Assad regime monitors Internet communication. But that does not stop Amina from saying what she thinks so boldly that even those of us who live in societies where freedom of speech is a given might pause before posting such opinions.

It seems that repression--in the form of one of the eighteen different state-run police forces or some militia--has caught up with her. She was abducted two days ago and remains missing, according to two posts on her blog by her cousin. According to The Guardian, which profiled her in early May, she is a dual citizen of Syria and the United States. (Ironically, the Guardian gives Amina's full name but the bylines of several articles about her are pseudonyms.) The question is what the US State Department will do now. Will Amina be another dual-citizen sacrificed to serve some larger strategic calculus?

I first learned of Amina when someone sent me a link to her post "My Father the Hero". She describes, in an account that manages to be both harrowing and uplifting, how her father spoke with the militiamen who came to take her away in the middle of the night and shamed them into leaving. It turns out only to have been a temporary victory.

The sort of people who come to take you in the middle of the night are trained to be impervious to reason and human emotion--my parents' descriptions of the precisely inflicted brutality of the Polish riot police, the spine-chillingly-named ZOMO, towards the end of Communist rule in Poland made wonder as a child whether the ZOMO-men had been Terminator-like robots. Even so, the brain-washed functionaries that prop up dictators can sometimes be reminded of their humanity. It seems Amina never got the chance to reason with the three young men who bundled her into a car.

Nothing remotely as dramatic happens on my blog--and I hope to keep it that way. My thoughts are with Amina.

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