Maria Dayton

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Biographical Details

"Ms. Dayton is a DC based activist who specializes in democracy, civil society, and human rights issues in the Middle East. She has extensive experience developing, implementing, and assessing various development projects with the United Nations and other local organizations in many countries including: Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Israel/Palestine, and Rwanda. As a project manager for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development studies in Cairo she worked closely with the director and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, in the development of many civil society programs including: the 2005 Election Monitoring project, the Egyptian Democracy Support Network, and the founding of the Arab Democracy Foundation in Qatar.

"As the founder of the DC based organization Voices for a Democratic Egypt (VDE) her current work includes the development of regional governance programs and advocacy efforts targeting US policy makers. She holds a BA in International Studies and Biology and MAs from both France and Egypt in International Relations, International Economic Development, and Middle East Studies." [1]

From 2011: "Coordinator of Middle Eastern programs at Vital Voices, fluent in Arabic, French and English, Maria has been deeply involved with Egyptian movements to remove three-decade president Hosni Mubarak long before the struggle gained international media attention early in 2011. Active with Voices for a Democratic Egypt in the US and with Transterra Media, which works in authoritarian environments with citizen journalists, bloggers and social movements to be able to sell their video footage to international news networks, she has also worked extensively with human rights and civil resistance movements in Palestine, Tunisia, Lebanon (during the political conflicts of 2002 in Beirut), Jordan, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. Israeli Defense Forces twice arrested her outside Bethlehem for taking photographs, in 2007, of a destroyed home, and again, in 2008, for photographing a new section of the security wall. Lately, she’s coordinated interviews for Egyptian and Middle Eastern dissidents around Washington DC and New York on national and international news channels. As can be imagined, she’s been quite busy in recent weeks. She writes:

“In 2007, my co-worker (Amr Tharwat) at the Ibn Khaldun Center in Egypt was forcibly disappeared after returning from the inaugural conference of the Arab Democracy Foundation in Qatar. There were many reasons for his arrest, not only was he was in charge of the monitoring of the Shura Council Elections but he was also active in the Quranist movement which is the Muslim equivalent of the protestant reformation. Many people within the human rights field were more interested in protecting themselves than in helping me find Amr or in filing out the necessary legal paperwork. After many desperate attempts, I became quite demoralized by the lack of attention his case was getting within the activist community in Egypt. Long story short, after many appeals to the media, his extended family in the US succeeded in getting a major American newspaper to write an article about the crackdown on Egyptian activists including Amr’s case. The Egyptian government responded to that article by releasing information about Amr’s whereabouts and eventually allowing the legal representation that eventually led to his release.
“This has happened repeatedly since I began working on democracy and human rights related issues and has only reinforced in my mind the power of the media to protect activists on the ground.”" [2]



Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. MSUD MUN Guest Speaker: Maria Dayton, founder of Voices for a Democratic Egypt, MSU, accessed February 3, 2011.
  2. Meet the 41 Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholars, Class of 2011, Narco News, accessed November 26, 2011.
  3. About, Transterra Media, accessed November 26, 2011.