Maura Stephens

30 September 2005


A U.S. and Irish citizen, I am a writer, editor, educator, and lifelong human rights and environmental advocate who spent eight years as an organic farmer. I began my professional career as an actor in New York City and then “fell” into journalism at Newsweek International. I have at various times focused on Central America, Western Europe, Lebanon, education, health care, business, international affairs, travel, gardening, and farming.

I left Newsweek after 19 years to start up an online business, which is doing well although I left it after a year. I now edit the quarterly magazine of Ithaca College, where I also lecture occasionally. I was a founding member of a regional sustainability initiative, have worked as a volunteer with a sexual assault victims’ service, and am a founding member of a collective working on social issues from a populist perspective. In August I attended Democracy School, in which I learned of the insidious and pervasive ways of corporations — and of ways to combat them.

I returned to acting in 2000. Recently I was thrilled to play Paulina Salas in Ariel Dorfman’s human rights drama Death and the Maiden.

I first visited Iraq on a humanitarian and information-gathering mission with my husband, playwright / director / photographer George Sapio, just before the 2003 invasion. We fell in love with the people — their bravery, nobility, compassion, hospitality, and resilience in the face of 3 wars and 13 years of sanctions. We published a book, Collateral Damage, and returned in summer 2003. We were horrified. Subsequently I have immersed myself in Iraq issues and written or consulted on policy briefs, given scores of presentations, and kept in close touch with many Iraqis. I returned to the Iraq-Jordan border this spring to interview displaced Iraqis; I am working to turn some of that footage into a documentary.

Other areas of deep interest are Burma and the radical Christian right in US government. Touched by the story of Han Lin, a Burmese political exile who works at my university, I became active with his campaign for freedom and democracy in Burma. Since July 19 a group of activists-in-exile have been staging peaceful demonstrations in Washington, a long march to New York City, demonstrations at UN Headquarters, and a hunger strike to demand UN action on the incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi and the oppression of the Burmese people by the vicious military regime. As a TheocracyWatch speaker, I help audiences see how ideologues collectively known as the “radical religious right” have become entrenched in US politics and taken over the legislative and executive branches of government on the way to seizing the judicial as well.


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