Maydan does not only consist of ordinary members. In 2019, the association decided to grant the title of honorary member to individuals who best represent the spirit and vision that animated the founders of the association. These are the characters whose example the Maydan association is inspired by:
Father Paolo Dall'Oglio
Father Paolo dall’Oglio joined the Jesuit Order in 1975. He trained in Italy and attended the University of Beirut. Dall’Oglio is known for having re-founded the Catholic-Syriac monastic community Mar Musa al-Habashi, or Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian, Syria, in the 1980s. Noted for his strong commitment to interreligious dialogue with the Islamic world, he proposed a peaceful solution to the challenges put forward by the popular uprisings in Syria, provoking the reaction of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011. Dall'Oglio was always on the side of the young people of the Syrian Revolution in his local and international diplomatic efforts, defending the idea of a pluralist, democratic and peaceful Syria. In 2012, he was forced to leave Syria due to pressure and threats from the Syrian regime and later that year, he received the Italian Lombardy Region 2012 Peace Prize.
On July 29, 2013, Paolo dall'Oglio was kidnapped during a mission in Raqqa, at which he tried to persuade ISIS members to free some Christian clerics being held by them. Since then, his tracks have been lost and he is believed to have died in detention due to his poor health. SabirFest, the annual festival of Mediterranean culture and citizenship, was dedicated to him (2014-18).
Ismaïl Al Sayed Mohamed Omar Toufic, born 9 November 1983 in Alexandria, also known as Ismaïl Alexandrani (إسماعيل الإسكندراني), with reference to his hometown, is an associate sociopolitical researcher, investigative journalist and expert in security, military affairs and the Sinai. A human rights activist, Ismaïl has also studied Islamic movements and the state-religion relationship in Muslim societies. He was a Visiting Arab Journalist Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center (2015), Fellow Researcher at the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative (since 2013), and a Regan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship student (International Forum for Democracy, Washington, 2012-2013). He won the Open Eye-Hany Darweesh Award (Germany, 2014) and the Global Youth Essay on Democracy Contest (World Youth Movement for Democracy, 2009). His articles have been published in several international and regional research institutions, including Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s “Sada”, Munich University’s Center for Applied Policy Research, the Doha Institute and the Al-Jazeera Center.
Ismaïl was arrested in 2015 at Hurghada airport by the Egyptian police, returning from SabirFest and from a stay in Turkey, and was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for "disclosure of state secrets and membership in an illegal group" in 2018. Unjustly accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he in fact has paid for the research he conducted on the violence perpetrated by the Egyptian regime in the Sinai with a prison sentence.
Chinyery Namdi is a Nigerian woman who decided to leave her country of origin with her husband Emmanuel following a bomb explosion by Boko Haram that shook up their lives. Their child was involved and killed in the terrorist attack along with Emmanuel’s parents. In 2015, the couple decided to escape and move to Italy in search of peace and a safe place to start again. While Emmanuel worked, Chinyery had studied medicine for two years in Nigeria.
On 5 July 2016, Emmanuel and Chinyery were in the city of Fermo when some people began to make racist comments to Chinyery, insulting her. Her husband intervened to defend her but was shot and killed by one of the perpetrators, Amedeo Mancini. Chinyery has never stopped fighting for justice after the death of her husband Emmanuel. Maydan dedicated the 2016 edition of SabirMaydan to Chinyery.
Pietro Bartolo, an Italian doctor and politician, was born in Lampedusa in 1956. He is known for having been the physician responsible for first response visits for the migrants who disembarked in Lampedusa and stayed in the reception center on the island, from 1992 to 2019. Bartolo has always supported welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers and the establishment of humanitarian corridors against human trafficking. In March 2011, he was appointed coordinator of all health activities in the Pelagian Islands.
He was on the front line in the rescue of the survivors of the sadly renowned shipwreck of a fishing boat loaded with more than five hundred migrants which occurred off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, in which 368 people died.
He was a municipal councillor in Lampedusa and Linosa from 1988 until 2007 and deputy mayor and health assessor of the municipality of Pelagie from 1988 to 1993. Since 2019, he has been a European Member of Parliament.
Chamseddine Bourassine is a Tunisian fisher from the coastal town of Zarzis and is the president of the "Zarzis le Pecheur" Association (ADPE) and the "Network of Small-Scale Fishing Activities". Known for his many sea rescues of migrants fleeing Libya, he was arrested by the Italian authorities for saving a boat of migrants in 2018. Bourassine and five other fishers were on a fishing expedition when they spotted a small boat carrying 14 Tunisian citizens 35 miles from Lampedusa with a broken motor. After having informed the Italian Coast Guard, and waited several hours, the fisher decided to tow the small boat a few miles from the island of Lampedusa, in order to facilitate the rescue operation. Once they arrived on the spot, the Italian authorities arrested Bourassine and his comrades accusing them of “aiding and abetting illegal immigration”.
News of the arrest of Chamseddine Bourassine provoked an immediate international reaction, including an appeal signed by 500 fishers addressed to the Italian Ambassador in Tunis. Bourassine was finally released on 23 September 2018 and later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Emel Kurma lives in Istanbul and is the General Coordinator of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HCA), an organisation of citizens for peace, democracy, pluralism and human rights. Active in social movements, she deals with citizenship rights, refugees and fundamental freedoms in Turkey and Eastern Europe. Graduated in Ankara in the mid-90s, after working for various human rights organisations, she became General Coordinator at the Citizens’ Assembly. In that role, she has worked on building strategies, project development, supervision of operations and resource generation for civil society.
Her organisation also promotes civic engagement in policy processes and advocates peaceful, democratic dialogue and negotiation in conflict situations. The organisation also works toward building and practicising these values and this democratic conduct in daily life, across political, administrative, socio-economic and cultural borders. Over the last few years, her work as an activist has become more difficult in Turkey, where she closely follows the Kurdish question, and after some HCA members had been arrested, she temporarily moved abroad for a period of time in 2019.
Olga Lafazani is an activist who deals with the challenging situation of migrants arriving in Greece. She studied Economic and Regional Development at Panteion University in Athens, and over the last few years, has participated in several research projects, including one on the city and migrants (“Interesting patterns of every-day life and socio-spatial transformations in the city. Migrant and local women in the neighbourhoods of Athens”, National Polytechnic University).
In March 2016, after the clearing out of Victory Square, a meeting place for migrants in Athens, hundreds of people were left without a roof over their heads and a place to live. On 22 April 2016, Lafazani along with a hundred activists and refugees occupied the City Plaza Hotel in Athens, which had been closed for seven years, with the sole objective of providing housing to homeless migrants. For 39 months, the hotel was home to about 400 migrants who had rooms and common areas at their disposal to lead a dignified life. In July 2019, City Plaza guests finally received official housing within the city of Athens. Olga Lafazani was present during the occupation and still works daily in defense of the rights of migrants and solidarity cities.
Miguel Roldán Espinosa
Miguel Roldán Espinosa is a firefighter born in Cuevas Bajas, Malaga. He studied physical education and sports sciences in Granada to become a firefighter specialising in water rescues. His specialisation led him to work with migrants at sea, first with the Spanish NGO Proem-Aid (2016), and then with the German NGO Jugend Rettet (2017). Founded in Germany in 2016 by a group of young university students who were unable to bear the growing number of deaths at sea, Jugend Rettet purchased a boat - the “Iuventa" - after receiving a donation, with which the crew has rescued hundreds of migrants. The “Iuventa” has saved 5000 migrants just in the waters between Libya and Italy.
On 2 August 2017, the "Iuventa" was seized in the port of Trapani and Espinosa and his comrades were investigated and accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The legal process involving the crew of the Jugend Rettet ship is still ongoing, with potential penalties of up to 20 years in prison.
Ahed Tamimi is a young Palestinian activist born in Nabi Salih in the West Bank, who fights for the rights of her people. The Tamimi family has always been committed to pro-Palestinian activism, against the expansion of Israeli settlements and in favour of the release of Palestinian political prisoners. On 15 December 2017, at the age of 14, Ahed participated in a protest in her hometown that escalated when about two hundred demonstrators began throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. According to the Tamimi family, Ahed’s cousin, fifteen-year-old Mohammed, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet and, in response, Ahed and her mother began to slap and shove two soldiers outside their home.
Arrested on 19 December 2017, on 24 March 2018, she received an eight-month prison sentence and a fine of 5000 Shekels (about 1200 €). Her determination has made Ahed Tamimi a symbol of Palestinian activism.