Web rallies to the aid of kidnapped “A gay girl in Damascus” blogger

Prominent American-Syrian political blogger Amina Abdallah Arraf abducted by armed young men in Damascus * Whereabouts remain unknown * Letter-writing campaign begins, targeting senators, the White House and Syrian embassies * Updates below

The Syrian-American author of one of the most important political blogs in Syria appears to have been apprehended by one of the Syrian security forces, according to a post on “A Gay Girl in Damascus”. The current situation and location of the blog’s regular author, Amina Abdallah Arraf, remains unclear.

According to the post, written by Arraf’s cousin, the blogger  was ambushed early Sunday evening on her way to an activist meeting.

One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad. The witness did not get the tag number. She promptly went and found Amina’s father.

The men are assumed to be members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia. Amina’s present location is unknown and it is unclear if she is in a jail or being held elsewhere in Damascus.

I have just spoken with her father who is trying to locate her. He has asked me to share this information with her contacts in the hope that someone may know her whereabouts and so that she might be shortly released.

Arraf narrowly escaped arrest in late April, when her father shamed her would-be captors into leaving her be. After the arrest attempt, she went underground, but continued posting several times a day. The last post before the arrest was a poem:

Bird Songs

The bird flies free
Knowing no boundaries
Borders mean nothing
When you have wings

My heart and my soul
Long to follow and soar
Out over mountains
And deserts and seas

I have no wings
And earth presses in
Wrapped in a sheet
Forever to lie

Weighed down by dirtclods
Never to feel
Wind on my wings
Sun on my back

Soaring and flying
Freedom is coming
Here am I wanting
To know it one day

A subsequent post reported that attempts to learn of her whereabouts had not yielded new information:

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.
The Facebook page for the campaign to free her (assuming, hoping she’s alive) can be found here. The hashtag for her is #freeamina. As Arraf is a Virginia-born dual American citizen, supporters are encouraged to call on Virgina Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner to work for her release. Author Benjamin Rosenbaum offers on his blog the text of an email he sent to the Syrian ambassador to the United States; this can be used for further letters to ambassadors in your countries or to any other representatives of the regime you may have connections to.

His Excellency Dr. Imad Moustapha, Ambassador of Syria

Dear Dr. Moustapha:

As a US citizen and someone following with great interest the events in your country, I was very distressed to hear of the kidnapping of prominent blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari. Ms. Araf’s was a consistent voice for tolerance, peaceful protest, religious diversity, and progress in Syria. In her writings, she has been manifestly opposed to foreign intervention or meddling in Syria’s affairs, and to armed conflict of any kind. She is a Syrian patriot and a staunch supporter of a free, democratic, secular Syria. Her blog has touched, educated and inspired countless readers.

Please tell me what you are doing to determine Ms. Araf’s location and to ensure her speedy and safe release. I ask that you do everything you can to ensure the release of Ms. Araf and all peaceful protesters currently detained. As you write on the Embassy’s home page, “a clear distinction must be made between citizens demanding their legitimate rights versus militants pursuing the bleak path towards destruction and insecurity.” Ms. Araf is manifestly in the former category, and her speedy release will be a critical and important sign of Syria’s seriousness of intent in responding to the current situation with honor and justice, and within international norms.

I understand that Ms. Araf is also a dual US and Syrian citizen, and thus her health and safety is of special concern to the US government and all Americans.

Thank you for your kind attention, and I look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Note: As readers are no doubt aware by now, “Amina Arraf” came out as Tom MacMaster, from Edinburgh. You can read Yuval Ben-Ami’s recollections of his own hunt for a semi-non-real persona here.