Our VIP list of 11 environment heroes for the Middle East 2011.

If you don’t know these people already, now is the time to start. Top heroes are from Israel, Turkey and Iraq. The year 2011 has been a year like no other in the Middle East. We’ve seen protests against corruption, people have taken to the streets to save salt lakes, promote green transport and ask that renewable energy is taken more seriously. In an effort to celebrate the work of eco heroes from the region, we asked our readers to nominate the people who they felt went the extra mile for the environment in 2011. After whittling down the nominations – we present our editorial pics: the top 11 Green Prophet Heroes for 2011! Drum roll, please:

Ilana Meallem – Israel
ilana meallemAn inspirational green campaigner, Ilana is the embodiment of green living. A star student at the Arava Institute in Israel, she has worked on a bio-gas project with Bedouins and participated in various environmental projects in the region. For years she lived in a small van, where she ran and founded ECO-ME, an environmental community just north of the Dead Sea where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians meet to learn. Ilana also runs youth leadership sessions in Wadi Rum.

Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu – Turkey
Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu – TurkeyProfessor Hamzaoğlu published a landmark study in 2011 on the impact of pollution on babies and mothers in Turkey.While not a particularly popular move (he was threatened with legal action and jail), it has helped open up the debate on the issue and the impact of heavy polluting industries on locals.

Azzam Alwash – Iraq
Azzam Alwash – IraqAzzam Alwash is an inspirational campaigner who has been working tirelessly to restore the marshlands of Iraq following years of war and devastation. He set up the NGO Nature Iraq to spearhead the campaign to preserve the priceless wetlands and worked to encourage its long-term rehabilitation. He is also helping to establish a research initiative – Twin Rivers – at the American University in Sulaymaniyah where he works.

Farank Farid – Iran
Farank Farid – IranA journalist and activist, Ms. Farank Farid has shown immense courage by campaigning to protect salt lake Urmayah in Iran. She was arrested for 42 days for taking part in the protests and faced torture. As the nominee states, “Farid’s courage – especially in an country that is known for cracking down on dissidents of any kind – is exemplary, and I would love for her to know that we are support [sic] her!”

Inji El Abd – Egypt
Inji El Abd – EgyptA model woman for the new Arab world, Inji is the co-founder of the Green Arm (a platform for environmental initiatives in Egypt) and the Cycling for Change movement whose mission is to make Cairo a bicycle friendly city. She is an economist working in the field of sustainable development. Disclaimer: Inji El Abd writes for Green Prophet.

Raed al Mickawi – Israel
Raed al Mickawi – IsraelRaed is the director of Bustan, an Israeli NGO working to promote self-determination and sustainability in the Bedouin communities of Israel’s Negev desert. He is a tireless and relentless campaigner and the success of Bustan is a testament to what can be achieved in challenging physical and political environments.

Gundi Shachal – Israel
Gundi Shachal – Israel As the coordinator of the Ein Gedi EcoPark for Friends of the Earth Middle East, Gundi has managed to transform a former petting zoo into a flourishing eco centre.
The project has evolved to include experiments in mud building, solar cooking as well as recycling greywater and irrigating desert trees.The eco center also houses the Tamar Regional Council’s research and development centre on solar energy.

Yosef Abramowitz – Israel
Yosef Abramowitz – Israel Also known as ‘Captain Sunshine’, Abramowitz is the president and co-founder of the Israel-based Arava Power company. A human rights activist and educator, he has been part of the driving force leading Israel towards solar power and energy independence. He has also worked hard to secure the first-ever solar field approved for the Bedouin community in the country – an initiative he hopes will promote social justice and economic benefit for the community.

Munqeth Mehyar – Jordan
Munqeth Mehyar – JordanThe Jordanian director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (and a vegetarian), Munqeth works to promote environmental issues in Jordan and encourage co-operative efforts between Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Mohammed Rabah Salem – Palestine
Mohammed Rabah Salem – PalestineSalem works with solar panels and wind turbines in the West Bank and is happy to share his knowledge with anyone interested in renewable energy. He opened the first factory for wind turbines in Palestine (the Brother Engineering Group in Bethlehem) and has partnered with groups in Israel to spread the word on renewable energy and also encourage peaceful co-operation.

Sarah Rifaat – Egypt
Sarah Rifaat – EgyptThe Arab region coordinator for the 350 environmental campaigning group, Sarah has been at the helm of the climate movement in the Mideast. She helped organise an impressive 800+ rally in Egypt on the 23rd of September as part of the global Moving Planet day to encourage governments to move beyond fossil fuels and embrace green-forms of transport.