Updates: Amina Abdullah and Eman al-Obeidi

Two important updates on stories that we have covered over the past couple months!

First, Sara Yasin wrote recently about a blog called “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” where Syrian-American blogger Amina Abdullah Arraf has been writing about the revolution in Syria.  Amina Abdullah Arraf was allegedly abducted on June 6, and has not been heard from.  Many news organizations have since questioned her identity, especially the pictures assumed to be hers were discovered to be of another woman, Jelena Lecic. While we’re all very curious about Amina’s identity, an excellent quote from The Washington Post blog helps keep us on the bigger picture: “Again, people should operate under the assumption that there is a real blogger under detention in Syria. Who they are is another matter.”

Back in April, Tasnim looked at the media coverage of Iman al-Obeidi, a Libyan woman who first made the news in late March, when she told foreign journalists at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli about her detention and rape by members of Gaddafi’s militias.  After being smuggled out of Libya, taking refuge in Qatar, and recently being expelled from Qatar and sent back to Libya, al-Obeidi is now apparently on her way to the United States.  According to the most recent news, she has arrived in Romania, and may be staying there temporarily.

Of course, despite the attention that these particular stories have received, these women are not alone in the violence that they have experienced.  These updates remind us also of the many others in Syria, Libya and elsewhere who have recently been arrested, imprisoned, tortured, raped, or killed.  Our prayers go out to all of them.

UPDATE (June 12, 2011): Amina was a hoax. At this time, let’s not focus on what an asshole the man behind this is, but on the very real danger that imprisoned journalists and bloggers in Syria and other countries are facing.

  • Humayra’

    And he writes:
    “…I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

    I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

    This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism…”

    On one hand, it’s great relief to know that the blogger isn’t really in danger. But on the other…. This whole affair says volumes about whose voices are deemed worthy of receiving media coverage, and whose don’t. How deeply depressing. It is probably too much to hope that the blogger’s admission might push at least some journalists to ask themselves some hard questions about this dynamic.

    Ah well, this revelation takes me back to years of hearing male speakers at Muslim events giving talks on “the status of women in Islam,” and insisting their being male wasn’t relevant to their ability to address the issue because “the truth is the truth”… and presumably, nobody can express “the truth” about women’s lives like a man can…. Bah.

    Unfortunately, the voices of real people who are jailed and tortured in Muslim majority countries are usually ignored, both by journalists, but also by major Muslim orgs in North America and Europe. While it is heartening to see that ISNA has recently come out with general statements condemning torture (finally!), oddly and disturbingly enough, the only torture they seem to be really talking about is that perpetrated by the Americans.

    What a different world it might be if the shaikhs and Muslim opinion-makers who vigorously advocate hijab would direct a fraction of their attention to the issue of torture. I don’t understand why torture isn’t treated as a major religious issue.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Humayra,

    You’re right shaikhs and Muslim opinion-makers should talk about such political/social issues like torture. However it’s very difficult to do because you face the risk of upsetting the powerful elite (of whatever country you happen to reside be it in the East and the West). It’e easier to talk about individual matters in Islam like Ibadah, Amal, etc. But I think if the shaikhs and opinion-makers form groups that shape public opinion towards such political/social issues then it will be much easier to hold rulers (of whatever country) accountable and force them to either change or abdicate the responsibilities they have so neglected.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Also it would help for shaikhs and opinion-makers to receive backing from powerful supporters in society (the intellectual, financial, military elites) while pressing upon urgent issues affecting that particular society so that rulers become isolated (I’m talking here about Muslim rulers who often times feel no sense of accountability).

  • Sindri Myr

    I support what Tom MacMaster did. He managed to fool the media establishment and blogosphere by feeding into the narrative of Western liberalism. He pushed all the right buttons of the liberal establishment; Amina was Westernized yet anti-Western, Muslim yet secular, privileged yet oppressed. She was safe; liberal enough to be accepted by armchair activists, yet a proud Muslim enough make her be a legitimate representative of the oppressed people of the Muslim world.

    It allowed people to think they were agents of change simply by following her blog and joining Facebook groups dedicated to her behalf. Amina’s story was perfect, and the Western media gobbled it right up.

    It did not occur to them to take everything on the internet with a grain of salt. Many were gullible enough to get hurt by a blog, which turned to be a hoax gone wild.

    MacMaster’s experiment did expose the vapidity (and latent orientalism) of the popular left and mindlessness of the internet, and for that, he earns my praise.

    See this:

    http://professopatra.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/amina-arraf-fraud-and-a-defense-of-tom-macmaster/

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Sindri Myr

    I see what you’re saying; I guess I too would have been on McMasters’ side if he hadn’t let the thing drag on for so long and even include a dramatic climax to his “story” (the character’s arrest and detainment). Also I’m uneasy about him making up a character who’s experiencing a real-life revolution going on in Syria. It just seems like he was using the revolution for his own selfish purposes (gaining publicity for his writing talent).

  • greybaby

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