Gay Girl in Damascus Kidnapped: How Should U.S. Respond?

 @EllenKilloran
on June 07 2011 4:24 PM

Amina Arraf, the outspoken blogger behind A Gay Girl in Damascus has reportedly been kidnapped. Her whereabouts and condition are unknown, as reported by her cousin Rania O. Ismail, who has been updating the blog in Arraf's absence.

In the most recent update on Tuesday, Ismail wrote: 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.

Arraf, 35, started the blog in Feburary of this year, primarily as a defiant declaration of her sexuality and to explore lesbian and gender issues in Syria, as described by The Guardian; but she was quickly swept up in Syria's political turmoil, and through her blog became one of the most prominent voices against the Syrian government's policies and its treatment of opposition.

Arraf is one of the better known among thousands who have been detained in response to widespread protests of the Arab Spring Uprisings that have erupted throughout Syria since mid-March. Arraf is unique not only for her being openly gay, but for having dual American and Syrian citizenship.

In fact, her international popularity could have contributed to her having come under the scrutiny of Syrian government, although there is no concrete evidence yet that the government is involved in Arraf's kidnapping. (Ismail wrote that her family believes her abductors are members of one of the security services or the Baath Party militia).

At least one journalist has called for American intervention.

Brooklyn-based Andrew Belonsky wrote an article for Death and Taxes magazine saying the U.S. government should...use its power and influence to call for Arraf's release.

He went on:

Such a statement would of course prove that the U.S. remains committed to freeing citizens held overseas, just as we have in North Korea and Iran, but an official declaration would also send two indispensable messages: international governments must protect free speech, and democratic societies must respect LGBT equality.

The free speech argument is part and parcel of any American call-to-democracy. Such a right remains the cornerstone of any democratic transition and related rhetoric.

Just this weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the Syrian government for interfering with its citizens ability to communicate freely; and in May, President Obama issued sanctions against the Syrian government in response to its violent treatment of demonstrators.

Sandra Bagaria, a close friend of Arraf's living in Montreal, told Al-Jazeera that Arraf had said yesterday that she felt the situation in Damascus was secure. But Arraf also described what sounds to be someone attempting to get close to Amina by impersonating Bagaria:

                ...she also said she had received e-mails from me that I never wrote, telling her that I was in Damascus, and asking her to meet up... someone obviously hacked my e-mail account or somehow pretended to be me. They were trying to approach her, I think.

In the blog post announcing Arraf's kidnapping, her cousin said Amina had previously sent me several texts to post should something happen to her and we will wait until we have definite word before doing so. Since then, she has only posted a brief update claiming not to have any further information and pleading for help bringing her cousin to safety.

Amina's last blog post before she was kidnapped was a poem called Bird Songs, in which one stanza reads:  I have no wings /And Earth presses in/Wrapped in a sheet/Forever to lie.

 

 

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