Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, Kidnapped Gay Syrian Blogger, Might Be Made Up

The defiant lesbian blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari (a/k/a Amina Arraf or Amina Abdallah), who was reported kidnapped on her blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus" by a cousin this week, may not exist at all or otherwise has a lot of explaining to do. Her story circulated everywhere from Fox News to MSNBC, the Guardian, Huffington Post and beyond on Tuesday, but just 24 hours later, we're left with way more questions than answers. In the widely-circulated blog post, Amina was said to have been snatched on the street by armed men. "I have been on the telephone with both her parents and all that we can say right now is that she is missing," read a follow-up two days ago. (There's been no activity on the blog since.) "Her father is desperately trying to find out where she is and who has taken her." But did anyone? We'll explore in Press Clips, our daily media column.

Gone or Never Was: NPR's Andy Carvin can't find anyone who has met the girl, though a BBC producer had contact with her through Skype. "A Canadian journalist who also had interviewed her told me the same thing," Carvin writes, "adding that video skype isn't available in Syria, so the friend in Canada only knew her via text chat."

Previously circulated photos of Amina have been identified as a woman who lives in London, Jelena Lecic, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Guardian is on the case too, and reports that "US embassy officials in Syria are urgently seeking to establish further details about" the woman.

But an old blog under the same name gives some indication of what might be happening here:

This blog is ... ... where I will be posting samples of fiction and literature I am working on. This blog will contain chapters and drafts. This blog will have what may sometimes seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will also be fiction. *And I will not tell you which is which.* (emphasis mine) This blog will sample what I'm writing. This blog is not a diary. This blog is not about politics. This blog invites your comments.

But Carvin urges caution, providing some gravity to the situation in which a possible online hoax turns into an angry witch hunt, as we've seen before. Carvin writes:

Despite all the questions I have, I am deeply worried that this discussion about her identity could distract people from the possibility that should might be being brutalized in detention, and in dire need of support from friends and strangers alike. Having a pen name and writing occasional fiction on an otherwise real blog, if that is indeed true, is an academic discussion when compared with what she might indeed be going through.

If you have any info to share on the case, please do be in touch.

Launch Day: ESPN star columnist Bill Simmons had his new Grantland website go live today. Chuck Klosterman! Reality TV! Bill Simmons! More TV!

Simmons told The Wrap he's not concerned with page views, "because everybody's so trapped with getting page views that they're gearing stuff toward multiple, multiple, multiple posts per day. And you know, one, I think that's counterproductive because you're not putting your best stuff up all the time. And then, two, I think for people that are busy, it can be a little intimidating."

But really, ESPN (parent company Disney) remains the sports media empire that matters most and as a portal, can likely support Grantland traffic-wise with a simple front page link, so it makes sense that he's not worried about silly things like penis pictures or cats.

Built-in rival Deadspin celebrated with jokes and a very serious "Why Grantland Rice Sucked," about the site's namesake. For a day, We Are All Sports Blog Readers.

The Observer, too, is new and shiny and filled with media stories, including features on new Times executive editor Jill Abramson, a woman ("She had great skirts," and also, "she routinely pings [writer Jane] Mayer when an issue of The New Yorker comes out without a single female byline"), as well as the NYC media world's favorite phoenix Maer Roshan of the failed Radar magazine. (Sample comment: "Radar STILL owes me money.")

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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