Remembering Mustafa Akgül

Mustafa Akgül of Bilkent University passed away on 13 December 2017 after a long battle with cancer. Commonly regarded as the "father of the internet in Turkey," he was one of the most important figures in establishing the first internet connection in Turkey on 12 April 1993. He founded and organised two annual conferences and contributed to the organisation of two further annual conferences under the motto "internet is life". These were instrumental in spreading the internet to remote parts of the country. The conferences also provide excellent fora to discuss the technical and social dimensions of the internet in the national and international context.

His activities also involved organising an annual FOSS (free and open source software) camp, which included a large set of lectures for hundreds of students, office workers and volunteers. At these hands-on camps and in accordance with the free software philosophy, participants were encouraged to analyse and modify the software as required. He was an ardent critic of international software monopolies, particularly after their intimate relationships with the spy organisations were revealed by Edward Snowden.

Also related with the FOSS movement, he had internalised a "gift culture" which resulted in the removal of admission fees for all of his conferences and camps. As opposed to mainstream academic activity, where the conferences can be used for personal enrichment, he effectively used his high profile for providing free-of-charge venues and sometimes participants' accommodation at the events. He was a rare breed of people who served his community without any expectation of personal benefit.

Mustafa Akgül was also an outspoken critic of the Turkish government for its censorship and surveillance activities on the net. As a result, his official appointment for fostering internet access was discontinued at the beginning of the 2010s. I had the honour of co-authoring two articles with him -- published in Internet Policy Review, one of which was about internet censorship in Turkey.

Akgül had an incredible level of energy, which allowed him to work at full steam even during periods where he was under intense treatment for his illness.

He will be dearly missed.

Melih Kırlıdoğ

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