Eco-Heroes Risk Jail, Censure to Green the Mideast

© Green Prophet
Six of Green Prophet's '11 eco-heroes of 2011.'

They're working to protect crucial wetlands in war-ravaged Iraq and make cycling a viable option in traffic-choked Cairo. For their trouble, they've been threatened with legal action and even jailed. Being an environmentalist in many parts of the Middle East is not for the faint of heart.

Activists from Israel, Turkey, and Iraq were named the top three of 11 eco-heroes from the Middle East and North Africa picked this week by the regional environmental website Green Prophet (founded by former TreeHugger Karin Kloosterman) from reader nominations of people who had "gone the extra green mile" in 2011.

Israeli, Turkish, And Iraqi Winners
Top honoree Ilana Meallem of Israel founded an environmental community just north of the Dead Sea that brought together Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians around shared green concerns.

Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu of Turkey risked legal action and jail -- and was accused of trying to "spread fear and panic" -- over his groundbreaking study of pollution's impact on babies and mothers in a heavily industrialized part of the country.

And Azzam Alwash of Iraq, the founder of the NGO Nature Iraq, continued his tireless work to restore the country's beleaguered marshlands, home to an ancient culture.

More Mideast Eco-Heroes
Other eco-heroes on Green Prophet's list spent more than a month in jail for campaigning to protect Lake Urmia in Iran; spearheaded efforts to make Cairo a bicycle-friendly city; worked to promote sustainability in Bedouin desert communities; created an eco-center; promoted solar and wind power; worked to increase environmental cooperation in the region; and rallied the public to demand action on climate change.

Tags: Activism | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Israel | Jordan | Turkey

Best of TreeHugger