Launched in February 2011 by the intrepid Amina Abdallah Arraf, the blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus" purported to describe the plight of lesbians in Syria and the political repression at the hands of the Al-Assad dictatorial regime.

On 7 June 2011, a posting on the blog by a person who passed himself off as Amina’s cousin announced that she had been abducted by three armed men who whisked her away in an unmarked car with an official insignia on the windshield [1]

A tidal wave of solidarity immediately swept across the Internet; scores of Facebook accounts called for her release and demonstrations were organized in front of numerous Syrian embassies.

But alas, unmasked by pro-Syrian militants who had identified his IP, anti-Assad activist Tom MacMaster was forced to admit that Amina Abdallah Arraf did not exist and that his blog had been a red herring.

A U.S. postgraduate student at Edinburgh University in Scotland, Tom MacMaster is completing his PhD studies on Syria’s economy. He is currently in Turkey where he took part in an anti-Assad conference calling for a NATO intervention in Syria.

"A Gay Girl in Damascus" gained a worldwide readership and was held up by the Anglo-American press as a direct testimony of the repression in Syria.

Secular Syria does not ban homosexuality, which belongs to the private sphere. However, under the Takfirists - who have been intent on overthrowing the regime for the past couple of months - homosexuality would be punishable by death.

[1See our daily bulletin on the situation in Syria, Syria Daily News Brief of 9 June 2011.