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The Loss of a Friend

Tarek Kamel, 1961–2019Dear colleagues and friends, it is very, very difficult to write these words. The loss of a young person is always a tragedy. The untimely loss of a friend is even worse and is always a very difficult time. The loss of a fellow Internet pioneer is like losing a brother.

Tarek Kamel was a great friend of the Internet Society–Bulgaria. I remember him giving an interview for the Bulgarian public television in Yokohama during the INET 2000 meeting (I hope to be able to find this interview in the coming weeks)—praising our chapter for the elimination of all licenses and registration regimes in the country. In 2002 he sent his chapter condolences to ISOC Bulgaria, when we lost (also very untimely!) our co-founder and board member Mitko Kirov.

I remember him as the ISOC–Egypt leader, and then as an advisor to the minister of ICT, and then as a minister.

I also had the luck to work with him at ICANN, when he became responsible for the government engagement, and I witnessed first hand his great skills and talent to navigate the organization in the challenging times of international Internet-related negotiations.

Tarek was the same person, no matter where he worked—kind, humble, thoughtful, always ready to listen, and give advice, always ready to suggest a new solution to any problem. I wish we all were as humble as he was.

Tarek and myself at the the UN, 2014.
Photo: UN ASG, ThomasGas
I remember a story few years ago when I introduced him to a friend of mine at the World Bank. My friend told Tarek, “Ah, I remember you, when you built the Cybercity in Egypt…”, and Tarek interrupted him kindly, “No, no… I didn’t build it. My boss built it, and I just had to go and cut the ribbon, as I was by that time, the minister. But it was the previous minister, my boss, who by that time was already prime minister, who actually built it.”

He always gave credit, where credit was due, and never took credit for someone else’s work. I wish we all were as precise as he was.

Anywhere I’d go—at the UN or other UN agencies, when I would see someone from Egypt, they will always mention Tarek in the most positive ways. His former staffers always talked of him with great respect, and would address him kindly as “Doctor Tarek.” Earlier this year in Geneva, I saw a former colleague of his, and I encouraged her to go and see him in the hospital. She just sent me a note thanking me for encouraging her to reach out, as she had one more opportunity to spend time with him. We all liked spending time with him, and he was always happy to see people around him, even when he was going through tough times—especially during tough times.

He was in some ways like a real doctor—always ready to listen to someone’s issue, always ready to suggest a “treatment” of a problem. I wish we all listen more and try to help as he did.

And in all different ways, and always, he was a good Person, with a capital “p.”

I hope we all strive to be as good as he was. I know it’s difficult, but that’s one of the (many) lessons I learned from him—that we should be good, when we are confronting challenging times, because it’s easy to be good, when things are going well, but it’s really good to behave well, when times are tough.

Tarek, you’re already missed. Rest In Peace, my friend.

More about Tarek can be found here.

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