'Gay Girl in Damascus' blogger accused of second hoax

By Jennifer Lipman, June 27, 2011

A married male blogger who posed as a lesbian writing from Damascus in order to criticise Israel is alleged to have used a second false account to defend his behaviour.

Tom MacMaster made headlines around the world with his site "A Gay Girl in Damascus", which included comments about shooting Jews and Christians and used rumours "to inflame views of Israel".

But after he reported that she had disappeared amidst the uprisings in Syria, it emerged that "Amina Arraf" was a fictional character.

And according to a reader of the Middle East comment site Mondoweiss, "Amina" was not the only female blogger he invented.

Last week, a woman named "Miriam Umm Ibni" posted on a discussion about the hoax and said Mr MacMaster had perpetrated it out of "compassion" and to highlight real issues and real concerns.

But a reader, Seham, said he had discovered that "Miriam" and "Amina" used the same Internet Protocol address – one that was traced back to Mr MacMaster in Edinburgh. The Guardian also reported that it had seen proof of the IP address.

In an email to Mondoweiss Mr MacMaster said "Miriam's" comment had been posted by a friend who was visiting him and that she had used his wireless connection.

He added: "She used a pseudonym as she is a committed activist on the Palestine cause as well as a fellow international student here at the University of Edinburgh"

When the truth about his blog was first revealed, Mr MacMaster explained that he had found his "distinctly Anglo name" meant that his comments on the Middle East were ignored.

"I found myself accused of hating America, Jews, etc," he said. "I wondered idly whether the same ideas presented by someone with a distinctly Arab and female identity would have the same reaction."

Last updated: 4:02pm, June 27 2011