The author of the hoax ‘Gay Girl in Damascus’ blog has defended the deception and says he may even write a book about his experience.
Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old US student at the University of Edinburgh, admitted last night that he was ‘Amina Arraf’ but said the hoax had not harmed anyone.
Speaking today on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland, he maintained that he was presenting the “facts” about Syria.
The diary, which attracted thousands of followers, chronicled a “lesbian’s thoughts on life, the universe and so on”. Mr MacMaster had kept up the pretence when journalists contacted him by email for interviews.
The blog hit the world news earlier this month when a post appeared claiming that ‘Amina’ had been kidnapped by Syrian security forces. As concern grew for her safety, so did scepticism about the authenticity of the blog.
Last night, he revealed that he was the blogger, claiming that while the “narrative voice” was fictional, the facts were true.
Gay rights campaigners have reacted furiously to Mr MacMaster’s admission, accusing him of harming genuine LGBT people, putting activists in danger and taking attention away from the situation in the country.
The graduate student, who is on holiday with his wife in Turkey, said this morning: “It was a fiction but the facts I was presenting about Syria, about Islam, about the Middle East, about all of these things are true.
“I think the most important thing is to get the information out.
“Now that this is out, the really important thing is people should stop focusing on the hoaxer and really be focusing on the most important people, who are the real people suffering in Syria and throughout the broader Middle East.”
He also said he was considering making a book out of the story, saying: “I am not going to be blogging as anyone. I may possibly work on a novel using this character.”
Mr MacMaster was also accused of putting a London woman’s life in danger after stealing images of her from Facebook and passing them off as photos of ‘Amina’.
He apologised to college administrator Jelena Lecic, saying: “I had an idea of what my character should look like. One day, I was flipping through something and I saw a picture of Jelena and I was like: that is the face.
“She’s pretty and just fit exactly. I didn’t think anyone would notice.”