The Curious Case of Amina Arraf: the Gay Factor

I don’t know who Amina Arraf is, nor have I read her blog as often as many of the people that I know, but the moment that I was informed about her disappearance,

I re-posted on Sawt Al Niswa the call on her blog  that was written by her cousin, as an act of support. I also engaged with Leil Zahra as he was writing his article about Amina’s disappearance, to make sure that Amina’s “open gayness” doesn’t become a factor that would eliminate chances of solidarity with her in this region; because it is not a secret that “gayness” does alienate one from belonging to certain popular movements, especially with the recent uprisings in the Arab region that have been presenting heterosexual young dudes as the change-creators. And all of this is understandable, since our LGTBQ movements are not exactly political nor do they have the popular strength (and maybe even the will) to take a risk in dealing with homophobia and rejection from the activists in these “popular” hetero-normative movements. This is due to the dominance of middle class attitudes within the “Arab” LGTBQ movements which often manifest themselves in protecting their closed “gay” spaces rather than venturing out into other spaces.

Amina’s writing most probably allowed many of the LGTBQS in the region to feel a connection with what’s going on, through the eyes of an “openly” gay girl in Damascus and identify with it. Her writings as a “gay girl” have brought many of the gay activists in the region closer to the revolution. We could argue that this was not the only factor and that her writings in fact spoke to many, the many who are English-speakers, who understand American references, and who identify with the revolution through middle-class eyes.

Yet, is it enough that we completely engage with her writings uncritically and embrace her just because the disappeared blogger was gay? And is it OK that this disappeared bl ogger, whether her name is Amina or X, misleads her readers with a fake identity just because she is gay? When the disappeared blogger realized that she was now in a dangerous position, didn’t she want to at least make sure that those who read her have some tangible facts about who she is so that they “claim” her? Did the disappeared blogger want to teach the “revolution audience” a lesson on how they don’t have to know the person to be in solidarity with him or her? That they should act anyway? After the questioning of her existence, shouldn’t the cousin, that have her name on the blog, say something? Shouldn’t the cousin feel angry because in a moment of fear, so many are doubti ng the blogger’s existence? And shouldn’t she want to say something, like how stereotypical is it to assume a conspiracy? Didn’t the blogger trust those who read her to share one fact or two to help f ind her? Did the disappeared blogger want to confuse people? Make a point of how gullible they are when it comes to consuming the recent revolutions?

I don’t assume the debate about the disappeared is taking place in Syria, as much as it is raging outside of it, for the blogger’s writing has always been focused outwards, talking to those who are not living In Syria. Is it that with her disappearance now, we feel that Syria is more isolated then ever? That the witty gay girl who combined Muslim, queer and pinkwashing in the same paragraph was the only tie that brought us closer to the “Syrian revolution?”

Many feel betrayed, especially those who have been in touch with the blogger and have welcomed her into their safe online havens, especially that her “outness” is a privilege that many of the LGBTQs residing here do not have. Many supported her, and shared her work on FB and made her a reference about the Syrian regime. Is it a lot to ask then that the people who supported her be informed about who is she? To be able to send words of support to her family? If we don’t know who she is, when the regime denies her existence, what do people do?

I don’t care if Amina doesn’t want people to know who she really is. I just want to know that she was real, and that the regime will not benefit from her disappearance. I don’t care if she was a boy, or even a straight person. What I care about is that if people don’t find out what happened to this person, they will not be able to know what happened to many others. They will not be able to trust the independent voices coming out of the closet of the regime to the whole world. And then the only “truth” we will know would be the one that the regime sets, where at least it remains loyal to its “audience.” I hope that in these 24 hours something comes up, and if not, then that does not change the fact that there are still 10,000 human beings arrested in Syria. And they need to be freed, whether they are gay or not, whether they speak English or not, whether they have an online presence or not.

Having said that, an apology is due to Sawt’s readers if any information published on Amina and Amina’s blog was misleading.

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