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She is not the one you should fear.
April 27, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Amina A. is a Gay Girl in Damascus. On Tuesday, she was visited by the Syrian security services.
posted by Rumple (71 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:54 AM on April 27, 2011


Holy shit I'm crying. That is an unbelievably awesome family right there.
posted by kmz at 9:54 AM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wonderful! Let's all pray for the people of Syria, and hope for good news.
posted by General Tonic at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2011


Yow.

just ... Yow.

I am cheering her and thanking fate that I was born in a place where I don't have to worry about armed security staff pounding on my door because my partner is another woman.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:57 AM on April 27, 2011


That was fucking amazing. I can only hope that I am able to be 1/10th the father that he was.
posted by longbaugh at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh my god, I hope they all stay safe.
posted by shothotbot at 10:00 AM on April 27, 2011


Wow. Just wow...

Imagine having a dad to rival Atticus Finch.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."

Wow.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 10:01 AM on April 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


Holy shit I'm crying. That is an unbelievably awesome family right there.

christ, so am i.
posted by marienbad at 10:02 AM on April 27, 2011


Choked up, to my own surprise.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2011


marmaduke: Great comparison with Atticus Finch. Hadn't even thought of that.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:03 AM on April 27, 2011


As a father this makes me want to be as strong as her father in the face of evil. What a powerful post, opens up some of the primary issues in Syria in the microcosm of one person's struggle.
posted by cell divide at 10:05 AM on April 27, 2011


I wonder what her family name is, that it has such a strong affect?
posted by benito.strauss at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't want to be a downer, but is there good reason to believe that this isn't a fake? It's tripping my too-perfect alarms.

There's no reason it couldn't be real, of course. But I'm thinking back to an ancient deleted post about a blog, I think it was called "63 days", about a girl living through teen bootcamp hell in Utah -- ah, here's a reference. We were all kind of taken in by that for a while until it was discovered to be a fake, which was pretty disappointing.
posted by gurple at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think this reaffirms my belief of what fathers are for. I do not care if its fake, Atticus Finch was fake, dude was still awesome and this could be real.
posted by Felex at 10:14 AM on April 27, 2011


I note his wisdom in not actually addressing the grunts' virulent hatred and offensive views on sexuality. Since he wasn't trying to win an argument, but merely get them to comply, speaking in their context was the right thing to do.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:16 AM on April 27, 2011


I wonder what her family name is, that it has such a strong affect?

I think it was more this:

"What are you?" he says. "Did the jackal sleep with the monkey before you were born? What are your names?"
They tell him. He nods
"Your father," he says to the one who threatened to rape me, "does he know this is how you act? He was an officer, yes? And he served in ..." (he mentions exactly and then turns to the other) "and your mother? Wasn't she the daughter of ...?"
They are both wide-eyed, yes, that is right,
"What would they think if they heard how you act?


I'm pretty sure the secret part of secret police is a big part of what permits them to be thugs with impunity.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:16 AM on April 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Damn. Yeah, I got pretty misty as well. Thanks for posting that.
posted by brundlefly at 10:25 AM on April 27, 2011


What an amazing man.
posted by Edgewise at 10:29 AM on April 27, 2011


This was awesome.

I'm reading through the rest of the blog now.
posted by chemoboy at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2011


How scary it would be to not be wealthy or well-connected enough to protect your family. I am less inspired by the personal courage shown here, which was great if true, than horrified by the realization of what the outcome would be for almost any other family in a similar situation.
posted by gilrain at 10:37 AM on April 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is a wonderful story... I'm so glad things like this don't just happen in books. So much wisdom and love. Humbling.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:41 AM on April 27, 2011


Whether or not incidents transpired exactly as they're depicted here, I think it's worth listening to the model for dealing with very challenging situations. If you use force, you invite a forceful retaliation. If you appeal to the basic goodness and sense of decency that almost everyone has, you may have a chance to force people to confront the fact that they know on some level that what they're doing is wrong.

We can't pretend it's always so easy or so simple. But I think that even now, in the US where I live, people are so irresponsibly riled up by our various political parties that we fail to notice that we lose part of our humanity, or the best part of it, when we allow ourselves to be defined more by political faction than by a simpler and more noble orientation to our fellows-in-humanity; we all know that it is best to be kind, to assume no ill will, to be honest, fair, and compassionate. That we deviate from these so often in political conflicts is, perhaps, a result of the proliferation of discourses in which those people, those ones over there, mean us harm, and treating them as we know we should is not only a bad idea, but dangerous.
posted by clockzero at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope that the Syrians can keep the protests mostly non-violent and stay unified. Given enough time, they will win.
posted by empath at 10:48 AM on April 27, 2011


I have a gay daughter, who, blessedly, has not been subject to anything like this. But, fuck, I wish I could be half the father this guy is.
posted by Danf at 10:57 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm also not trying to hate, because I want this story to be true, but: is it possible that secret security forces, sent to pick up someone, would return without that someone when they're obviously not in hiding? I am sufficiently blessed so as not to have any idea how this might work.
posted by Errant at 11:08 AM on April 27, 2011


Wow. Just, wow. Inspiring.

Sad to think, though, that someone less well-connected would have fared much worse. Her father sends these guys running with veiled threats about who he knows and who his family is.


MetaFilter: Did the jackal sleep with the monkey before you were born?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:11 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just for context, on Sunday Syrian security forces fired on a crowd of unarmed protesters and killed 90. On Monday Syrian tanks rolled into the Syrian town of Deraa; there are reports of indiscriminate killing there as well.

I wonder what her family name is, that it has such a strong affect?
"Your mother? Wasn't she the daughter of ...You know my cousins..."
Possible translation: we're a big family, we stick together, and we know where your family lives. An implicit threat?

They are the ones saying alawi, sunni, arabi, kurdi, duruzi, christian, everyone is the same and will be equal in the new Syria; they are the ones who, if the revolution comes, will be saving Your mother and your sisters...Your Bashar and your Maher, they will not live forever, they will not rule forever, and you both know that. So, if you want good things for yourselves in the future, you will leave and you will not take Amina with you. You will go back and you will tell the rest of yours that the people like her are the best friends the Alawi could ever have and you will not come for her again.

That won the argument. The security services are going kill-crazy partly because they are terrified, seeing as a disproportionately high percentage of them are Alawi. They have reason to fear what might happen to their 10% of the population if the government fell. It's a good argument, but I'm astounded that her father was able to convince them of the value of tolerance on the fly.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:27 AM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


This person sounds like he's well connected. I think that was 90% of what happened there.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Geez. What a story.
posted by limeonaire at 11:51 AM on April 27, 2011


Well connected or not that was a heckuva story.

That, my friends, is a man and a father.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:54 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Our cynicism gets rather impressive sometimes.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:55 AM on April 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's a good argument, but I'm astounded that her father was able to convince them of the value of tolerance on the fly.

Though his words were both tremendously wise and even more courageous, I don't think he convinced those two worthless thugs of anything. He just shamed them into leaving by sheer force of personality and intelligence. What a pair of scumbags.

is it possible that secret security forces, sent to pick up someone, would return without that someone when they're obviously not in hiding?

I don't really know, either, although I get the impression that these "security forces" are mostly roving state-sponsored thugs who operate with near-impunity. Their real function is to intimidate the populace, and it sounds like they were doing their job well (with this wonderful exception).
posted by Edgewise at 11:57 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not much brings me to tears. This did. What an unbelievably lucky woman she is to have a father like that.
posted by pjern at 12:21 PM on April 27, 2011


I'm a single dad with three kids, including an eight year old daughter. I want to be this kind of father.
posted by Shike at 12:43 PM on April 27, 2011


is it possible that secret security forces, sent to pick up someone, would return without that someone when they're obviously not in hiding?

The father implies in his speech that they may have been doing this on their own initiative and they might actually be held accountable for it by their superiors.
posted by straight at 1:03 PM on April 27, 2011


Whether or not this happened exactly as described (or at all, for that matter) doesn't make what it means any less true.
posted by Shohn at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


gurple: I don't want to be a downer, but is there good reason to believe that this isn't a fake? It's tripping my too-perfect alarms.

If it's fake, someone is putting time into setting up the story. It started recently, and I don't know enough about Syria to judge the content, but the beginning sounds legit enough: Why I am doing this - February 21, 2011
I live in Damascus, Syria. It's a repressive police state. Most LGBT people are still deep in the closet or staying as invisible as possible.

But I have set up a blog announcing my sexuality, with my name and my photo.

Am I crazy?

Maybe.

But I'm also aware of the winds of freedom and change blowing from one end of the Arab world to the other. And I want that freedom wind to bring with it our liberation, not just as Arabs and as Syrians, but also as women and as lesbians.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is one righteous rant. Thank you for posting.

As a child of the 70s/80s, the thought of escaping to Beirut seems weird.
posted by cereselle at 1:49 PM on April 27, 2011


Whether or not this happened exactly as described (or at all, for that matter) doesn't make what it means any less true.

... yes it does! Things matter if they are true or not. This is a current event. People act on information from current events, it changes the narrative on both sides. If this is fiction it should be clearly marked as such. If I was a Syrian blogger, what did I find out from this?

- Security forces are certainly monitoring English blogs, even ones of mild dissent like this one. You might say that one should suspect that security forces are reading blogs, but there's a huge leap from suspect to actually acting on it.

- Security forces act autonomously enough, even though they have done copious research, have been monitoring the blog for some time, they can go back with their hands empty. Hey if they come to your door, stand up to them and read them the riot act!

The thing that really tips me off as to this likely being fake or at least partially made up: the secret police are monitoring the blog, and you have just announced to everyone that you fought back and won. Hey maybe these guys told their superiors that this was all made up and the girl actually lived in London? They're busted now, and I have a feeling they're not letting the family off the hook.
posted by geoff. at 1:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


And it looks like a real reporter from the Washington Post is trying to interview her, so hopefully we can end speculation sooner rather than later.
posted by geoff. at 1:59 PM on April 27, 2011


That gave me chills.

Coming after reading all about ridiculous birth certificate shenanigans it.... huh. No words.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2011


what is who busted for now? huh?
posted by LogicalDash at 2:22 PM on April 27, 2011


What geoff was saying is, if this is real and those thugs have people they need to report to, then the reason they were able to walk away is perhaps because they reported something like, "Yeah, well... we decided to, you know... "interrogate" them on-site. I don't think they'll be any more trouble. Ha ha, snicker."

Now, if it gets checked up on, the cat is out of the bag and there could be repercussions.
posted by gilrain at 2:41 PM on April 27, 2011


That's just speculation. If it'd really happened to me, though. I'd be terrified. I would be grateful to be alive and unharmed. I would think really, really hard about posting it online as an inspirational story before getting to somewhere much safer. It seems foolhardy, tantamount to daring the thugs to defend their pride.

She may be braver than me, though.
posted by gilrain at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2011


On the "family name" business - in addition to the "I know your cousin" approach to the security officers, this part:

Do you know what is our family name? You do? Then you know where we stood when Muhammad, peace be upon him, went to Medina, you know who it was who liberated al Quds

sounds like a reference to a historical figure, and I found a candidate here after a brief googling of "liberation of al-Quds" (Jerusalem): caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattāb . The part about the migration to Medina is referenced about halfway down, and he's referenced in the article on the 638 conquest of Jerusalem as well.
posted by heyforfour at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, I'm not calling bullshit on anything. I very much want to live in a world where murderous rapist thugs are dissuaded by a forceful, impassioned, and reasonable speech. I'm just astonished to discover it might actually be this one.
posted by Errant at 3:45 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the odd side effects of the breakdown of the rule of law is that things like this can happen. Sure, mostly they don't, and mostly "security" agents do whatever the hell they want. The flip side of that, is they don't have to do what they don't want to. Of course, as I suggested, this kind of outcome is a rarity.

If this story is true - there's no reason to think it isn't - you can bet that the sole reason she got off was because her father was able to identify the men, and knew their families. Cultures that cherish their families are beholden to the idea, if not always the reality, that they don't want to disappoint their families in any way, for any reason. This was brilliantly played by Dad. The rest of the speech just gave the men time to reflect, and gave them a face-saving way out - the threat was hidden behind the torrent of rhetoric. They could pretend to salvage their honor, but the reality is, they just don't want mommy and daddy knowing they are thugs.
posted by Xoebe at 4:22 PM on April 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


While I agree with fact checking sources, we mustn't underestimate the importance of honor/shame and kinship in Middle Eastern cultures. Or, on preview, what Xoebe said...
posted by luminous phenomena at 4:31 PM on April 27, 2011


If you have the time and interest, read her earlier entries where she posts the first chapters of her (unpublished) autobiography:

Part 1: Family history: briefly Scottish and much more of Syrian

Part 2: Birth, Syria's '82 suppression, and escape back to Virginia

Part 3: Formative years, just being a regular girl

Part 4: Teenage years, Iraqi war, goth years and being in love

Part 5: Escape to Syria, self-discovery and joining the Sisterhood

Part 1 is pretty dry but picks up by end of part 5. Made me wonder damn, how did she go from being a devout Muslim intent on banishing her sexuality to where she is today.
posted by tksh at 6:33 PM on April 27, 2011


And in case anyone's wondering, her father is an engineer and her family is an old family, and if I'm reading in between the lines correctly, with certain connections despite no longer having the wealth.
posted by tksh at 6:36 PM on April 27, 2011


"Old family," hell. Her dad uses the family's connection to freaking Muhammad himself during the episode. The idea that this is a special family is hardly hidden, and hardly ammo for cynical dismissals.
posted by mediareport at 8:12 PM on April 27, 2011


For every fake blog that can used as evidence to spur your inner skepticism there is one riverbend that can be used to spur your inner faith.

God I hope this is the real deal, I want to believe there is hope for Dar Al Islam.
posted by roboton666 at 8:40 PM on April 27, 2011


geoff.: "The thing that really tips me off as to this likely being fake or at least partially made up: the secret police are monitoring the blog, and you have just announced to everyone that you fought back and won."

"Monitoring?" Yeah, they're doing a hell of a job "monitoring" her blog. They've drawn from it the interesting conclusion that she's Salafi, so their "monitoring" must be assiduous.

Look, I don't know if this thing is true or not, but it has the ring if truth; every detail is as it should be. Lest it need be said, the Syrian guard are not the East German Secret Police circa 1980. They do not keep copious notes on "subversives," and they do not "monitor" blogs for "suspicious activity." They decide to haul people in, and then they do it. If it's at night, it's even more likely that they're acting independently, with but a pretense of "orders." Most are largely acting on their own fears.

The description of their motivations, in fact, is the thing that rings most true about this story.
posted by koeselitz at 11:24 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The story does seem novelistically neat. But the world is a big place, and novelistically neat things really happen sometimes.
posted by Zed at 7:16 AM on April 28, 2011


"Monitoring?" Yeah, they're doing a hell of a job "monitoring" her blog. They've drawn from it the interesting conclusion that she's Salafi, so their "monitoring" must be assiduous.

Thanks for clearing that up. I was perhaps equating the Syrian guard too much with the Stasi. I realized they're not as organized, but reading the blog post made me believe there was at least some rudimentary organization was present. I assumed the Salafi thing was a purposeful misdirection to throw them off, but again, I'm thinking of Stasi-level interrogation techniques.

If the Syrian guard is less The Lives of Others and much more thuggish as you make them out to be, this becomes a lot more believable.
posted by geoff. at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2011


While I loved this story, it also makes me sad to think what is happening to all the other families who aren't well connected and wealthy. Her father was lucky enough to know these thugs and their families, I'm sure very few people could say the same. My guess is the father did little to convince them of the values of tolerance, and a better job of convincing them "Yeah, we need to pick on poor people more, it's way easier"
posted by antifuse at 6:25 AM on May 4, 2011


Her latest update says they came back and she's on the run.
posted by Mchelly at 11:59 AM on May 5, 2011


Yikes. Good luck to her staying safe.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:52 PM on May 5, 2011


That most recent post really makes it start to sound like something out of a thriller novel. I know that such things *do* happen in real life, but reading this:
Yesterday, I went home for a bit. As I got close to the house, I saw that there were two of Them outside the front door. There’s more than one way into my house and some are pretty well hidden. Not even all the family knows all of them. I used one of those and got inside.
It really does read like something you'd see in an airport-bookstore-bestseller.
posted by antifuse at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2011


Note: I'm not saying this is fake... But hoo boy, I would *so* not be surprised if we find out 6 months from now that it is.
posted by antifuse at 1:02 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where is Obama's support of Syrian democracy?
A Syrian rights campaigner told the AFP news agency that security forces killed four women who were among about 150 people demonstrating on Saturday on the main coastal highway from Marqab village, near Baniyas, calling for the release of detained people.
"the existence of the regime is like an invasion of the state, a colonisation of society" where "hundreds of intellectuals are forbidden to travel, 150,000 have gone into exile and 17,000 have either disappeared or been imprisoned for expressing their opinion.
posted by adamvasco at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2011


The Guardian runs the story. Update 8 May safe but in hiding.
posted by adamvasco at 1:49 AM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where is Obama's support of Syrian democracy?

Yeah, why don't we bomb them, too.
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2011


Iran helping Syrian regime crack down on protesters, say diplomats. Claim comes as four women shot dead by security forces in first use of violence against an all-female demonstration
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2011


The Complexities of Syria's Violence
posted by adamvasco at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


New entry: Nakba Day 2011
posted by homunculus at 5:05 PM on May 15, 2011


In other news: Donkeys Take Over From DSL as Syria Shuts Down Internet
posted by homunculus at 5:12 PM on May 15, 2011


adamvasco, thank you for that link. I have been watching some of my Syrian students on FB; they are very careful not to openly state their allegiances.

So much information coming out of Syria now is just hearsay. Of course there are 'agents of violence' implanted in the peaceful protests -- there always are. Still, there is the possibility that the protesters are actually mostly made up of violent factions seeking a civil war. Of course that doesn't excuse the state violence, but it sure makes any real reform in the government unlikely (no matter who wins the 'civil war').

The thing that bugs me - as Anna Haq says -- is that the likelihood that we will get the real story about any of this is about as dim as finding out if this gay blogger girl is real. People end up believing what they want to believe.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:19 PM on May 18, 2011


Surfurrus, I don't blame them for not stating their allegiances.
It seems the Mukhabrat is all over facebook.
On Tuesday Amina crossposted an interesting list of those in the regime perpetrating violence. via.
At the end the list mentions Al-Shabiha a right wing militia approved by the regime.
One of the immediate battles is to get information out and mainstream media is not paying too much attention prefering to see what Obama has to say., and what ever he says is not going to stop the imprisonment and torture of the Syrian populace by the goon squads.
So the stage is being set for Civil War and as Robert Fisk also points out
Truth and reconciliation? It won't happen in Syria.
Since these articles were published Syria has attempted to crush any dissent with tanks, so I think things will only get worse.
posted by adamvasco at 1:11 AM on May 19, 2011


Women on the frontline of demonstrations against Syria's brutal regime are now being targeted by security forces.
posted by adamvasco at 12:28 AM on May 22, 2011


Dorothy Parvaz is an Al Jazeera journalist who disappeared in Syria for 19 days. She writes about her experiance: Inside Syria's secret prisons
posted by adamvasco at 12:34 AM on May 22, 2011


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