Adam Polaski

'A Gay Girl in Damascus' Blogger Reportedly Seized

Filed By Adam Polaski | June 07, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Amina Abdaallah, Gay Girl in Damascus, Syria, The Guardian

(Update Below)

Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, the writer behind A Gay Girl in Damascus, a blog that's gained immense popularity in the last few months, has reportedly gone missing. The Syrian-American, lesbian blogger was reported missing yesterday in Damascus, the capital of Syria.

SyrianProtests.jpgAccording to a post on A Gay Girl in Damascus from someone who identified herself as Amina's cousin, an anonymous witness saw Amina being seized by three armed members of the Syrian security force and thrown into their car. Amina was on her way to meet up with organizers of an anti-government protest. The protest was apparently part of the Syrian Uprising, which has surged in the country for the past few months.

Amina's cousin posted an update on the blog several hours after the initial notification that the writer was reported missing.

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.

Unfortunately, there are at least 18 different police formations in Syria as well as multiple different party militias and gangs. We do not know who took her so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her.

Amina and her blog have sky rocketed to fame over the course of the Syrian Uprising - readers have turned to her for information about the protests and championed her as a hero of the revolt. Although homosexuality is illegal in Syria, Amina has written frankly about her experiences, her same-sex crushes, and her thoughts about being a sexual "outsider" in the country.

Despite her sexual dissidence, Amina has written extensively about how much more challenging it is to be a political dissident in Syria. She has encouraged anti-government protest and preached the importance of non-violent resistance, writing in one entry:

Some people say you fight fire with fire: No, you fight fire with water, not with fire. We will put out the blind hatreds of sectarianism not with sectarianism of our own but with love and with solidarity.

Her voice has been a significant, on-the-ground insight into the uprising. In May, she told The Guardian that she appreciated the opportunity to speak for political dissidents, saying: "Blogging is, for me, a way of being fearless. I believe that if I can be 'out' in so many ways, others can take my example and join the movement."

Follow the search for Amina on Facebook and on Twitter.

Update: The New York Times has reported that Amina's identity as the blogger behind A Gay Girl in Damascus has not been confirmed by anyone, and that all information regarding her alleged detainment have come from her blog. The newspaper has attempted to reach Amina's family to confirm details of the story. More information is available at The New York Times.

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I'm glad you posted about this, Adam. It's so sad and scary, I hope so much she'll be alright.

One amazing entry of Aminas is this one which shares the misconceptions about attitudes around queer identity in Islam:

And one of the consistent things that I have noticed is, as I have said before, that I have not received any friction from the religious. In fact, what I have gotten is entirely supportive.

I’m not entirely surprised; if anything, I feel confirmed in my own identity and identification with the religion. Yet, at the same time, I have seen lots and lots of talk of how Islam and homosexuality, Islam and democracy, Islam and feminism, Islam and human rights, Islam and so forth and so on are incompatible.

But that never comes from actual Muslims, neither directly nor by implication.

I’m not surprised. That was never my own experience of the religion. Our Islam, the religion that I was reared into, the religion of my fathers before me, the religion I personally embraced so tightly when I was a teen, Our religion was never like that.

I'm worried that coverage of this event will perpetuate those notions... I'm already seeing it happening.

The Free Amina Abdalla Facebook page recently posted a call to action with a template for a note that people can send to their Syrian Embassy. Hopefully more people pass it along!

The Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations:
Address: 820 Second Avenue; 15th Floor
(Between 43 rd Street and 44 th Street) See Map
New York , NY 10017
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM
Telephone: (212) 661-1313
Fax: (212) 983-4439
E-mail: syrianmission@verizonmail.com

I wrote the following polite message to the Syrian mission e-mail address:


It is reliably reported that Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari was abducted in Damascus by three armed men. I understand that there are at least 18 different police organizations, as well as militias and gangs roaming the streets in Damascus, and I do not know who is responsible for the abduction. Amina has dual citizenship, in Syria and the United States. I am seriously concerned about her safety and welfare, as are many other people, and would appreciate it if efforts could be made to secure her safe release from custody.

Sincerely,

Joann Prinzivalli

--

I had not seen the suggested format in time - but I am happy that I kept a polite tone for my message, and that I seem to have hit a number of (but not all of) the points made in the suggested message.