By JOHN STEVENS
- London woman says photo of U.S. lesbian blogger ‘kidnapped in Syria’ is actually her
- Jelena Lecic said: ‘I don’t know how this happened, I’ve never met her. This has put me in danger’
- Blogger’s ‘girlfriend’ admits she’s never met her
- Story of alleged kidnap was reported across the globe
The reported kidnap of a U.S. lesbian blogger in Syria has come into question after a woman in Britain claimed that photos being used to call for her release are actually her.
Thousands of campaigners joined protest groups after media outlets across the world reported that Amina Arraf, a blogger known for her frank posts about her sexuality and her open criticism of President Bashar Assad had been detained.
But a woman in London came forward today claiming the photos being circulated were actually her, raising questions about the existence of the blogger.
‘That is absolutely my picture taken in the last year in Paris,’ Miss Lecic told the BBC’s Newsnight.
‘It was [taken] on my birthday. I don’t know how this happened. I was very upset to see my picture.
‘I’ve never met her [Amina]. I’m not part of her blog. I’m not friends with her,’ said the Croatian who is working as an adminstrator at the Royal College in London.
‘This has put me in danger. This person is a gay activist in Syria. I really don’t feel comfortable.’
Lesbian blogger? A woman in London said this photo reported to be of blogger Amina Arraf is actually her.
An activist with the Local Coordination Committees, a group which helps documents the protests calling for an end to the Assad regime, had confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that Arraf had been taken.
But on Wednesday, the same activist said the group had ‘no independent confirmation’ and had reported it based on an entry by Arraf’s cousin on her ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog and from two people who claimed to be friends but who also got the information from the blog.
‘As far as we know, nobody’s emerged who has actually met her,’ the activist said.
On Tuesday news outlets across the globe reported the story of Amina Arraf, who it was claimed wrote a blog called ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’, a mixture of erotic prose and updates about Syria’s uprising, including her participation in anti-regime protests.
A person claiming to be her cousin, Rania Ismail, posted on her cousin’s blog, that Arraf had been taken in a car that had a sticker depicting Assad’s late brother Basel, according to a friend who was nearby and saw what happened.
‘Amina hit one of them,’ her cousin posted on Monday night. ‘One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan.’
‘We are hoping she is simply in jail and nothing worse has happened to her,’ Miss Ismail wrote.
A woman who had claimed to have been Arraf’s girlfriend has admitted she had never actually met her.
Sandra Bagaria, who had said she ‘crashed to the street’ sobbing when she heard about the kidnapping, had conducted an online relationship with her since January entirely through Internet communications in writing, including more than 500 e-mails.
The day before the supposed blogger was reportedly detained, Arraf wrote:
‘I am complex, I am many things; I am an Arab, I am Syrian, I am a woman, I am queer, I am Muslim, I am binational, I am tall, I am too thin; my sect is Sunni, my clan is Omari, my tribe is Quraysh, my city is Damascus.
In the blog Arraf also said that she was born in Virginia, but no public records with her name or her parents’ names have been found there.
Since the uprising against Assad began in mid-March, a government crackdown has left about 1,300 people dead and more than 10,000 detained, according to human rights groups.
Homosexuality is illegal in Syria and gays are frowned upon by the country’s conservative society. It is rare for gay Arabs to speak openly about their sexuality.
Thousands of people had joined a ‘Free Amina’ Facebook page, calling for her release.
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