The 13th of January, 2018, a great contributor to trade union LGBTI rights, a man with a lot of knowledge and wisdom, warm heart and a lot of humour, has passed away.
Kürşad Kahramanoğlu, who has spent part of his life in the United Kingdom but who recently lived in his motherland Turkey, died.
Born in Turkey in 1951, went to the UK to study philosophy, and got involved in the trade union movement; at that time NALGO, a union later merged into UNISON.
He was one of the principal figures in the early NALGO Lesbian and Gay group – later the UNISON LGBT group – and a strong supporter of international co-operation:
amongst the projects to which he contributed was the 1998 international conference on Trade Unions, Homosexuality and Work.
Kürşad could be serious and playful at the same time. One time, when he was chairing an official meeting he entered in suit and tie, and during the meeting he suddenly removed part of his clothing, showing that underneath he was wearing a trade union action t-shirt.
In 1999, he ran for the function of male secretary-general of the ILGA, against another candidate who also had a trade-unionist heart, Luis Gauthier, from Chile. Kürşad was elected and operated in the position of co-secretary-general until 2006, thereby becoming one of ILGA's most long-standing SGs.
In this role, he put ILGA in the spotlights and strengthened the internal organisation. One of the examples of his shining were in a debate with an African leader who defended his country against the European and North-American influences of accepting homosexuality. "I am sorry," Kürşad interrupted, "but I am confused. You say that you want to get rid of those European influences. But I think that your country got the first anti-gay legislation when it was part of the British empire." An argument that made it really difficult for his opponent.
When he returned to Turkey, he became lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the Bilgi University of Istanbul, and contributed to the newspaper Birgun with weekly texts on human rights.
Kürşad Kahramanoğlu will be remembered internationally by many friends and colleagues.