“Camp Armen has been entrusted to us from the Armenian children of Genocide survivors,” says the group.
The following statement was issued by Nor Zartonk, a youth movement in Istanbul, on the recent demolition order targeting Camp Armen, the former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul that provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983. Demolition began on May 6, despite campaigns to stop the camp’s destruction. Following protests by activists, the destruction has been halted temporarily.
The Nor Zartonk statement, which was issued on May 15, follows in full.
Camp Armen has been entrusted to us from the Armenian children of genocide survivors!
To the press and public,
Only days had passed since we came together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide when we received news that the Tuzla Armenian orphanage was being demolished. It was just a few days ago that we raised our voices all across Turkey and remembered the deepest wound of this land that is the Armenian Genocide, which was the result of the systematic, planned deportation and extermination policy to destroy the entire existence of a people.
We cried out against the effective and widespread rhetoric of genocide denial, and the enmity that denial has created, as well as the ongoing massacres. We became one in our efforts to end ongoing denial and massacres by crying, “Never again!”
And now, only a few weeks later, we stand here in front of the Tuzla Armenian Orphanage, Camp Armen, which was built by the Armenian orphans themselves.
Now we stand in front of Camp Armen, where bulldozers and construction machines have come to demolish what was built with the sweat of more than 1,500 Armenian children. It is now where we face the demolition team and witnesses, in front of one of the most important places of a people’s geographical and cultural history!
The Tuzla Armenian orphanage was built in the 1960’s in the post-genocide shadow of never-ending, hateful politics; it was built against all odds, without the support of the government, and with the labor of children. In the aftermath of the 1980 coup d’état, the founder and supervisor of the camp, clergyman Hrant Güzelyan, was accused of raising militant Armenians and became the victim of torture, and then had the land usurped from him. Now they are destroying this camp which they previously pronounced guilty.
This orphanage produced life and hope for those impoverished children who were born and raised in the geographical lands of where the genocide took place. The children who lived here were in large part coming from families who lived through or witnessed the genocide.
It is tradition to stand against and take responsibility of the past and of history despite all measures taken by the state and public institutions that have sought to destroy and to deny the massacres, the murders, the threats, and the hateful politics that have been spread in the past.
Despite the destruction of the genocide, the collective efforts of 1,500 Armenian children who were dealing with loss made history by living together and by not losing their faith.
This area, which faces demolition to build luxury villas, marks the history of the orphaned children who still had hope despite their suffering.
This space that they are trying to destroy represents where hope and the fight to continue to live together—as one of the most ancient peoples of this land—continued.
Moreover, we here today in this historical building want to recognize the other losses that have taken place on this land, such as the labor deaths from the Tuzla shipyards, the poverty that comes with deindustrialization, the spiral of poverty-unemployment-cheap labor that comes from pushing labor outside the city, the massacres of forests and animals, the opening of the coastline for profit, and the plundering of neighborhoods due to urban renewal, resulting in displacement and forced migration.
We urge you to stand together and join the efforts and witness the battle for hope in testimony for the history, the pain, and the history of loss for Camp Armen.
Because Camp Armen has been entrusted to us from the Armenian Genocide, and from the Armenian children.
Because Camp Armen is all of our history and represents the common history of all peoples of this land, and serves as the hope for giving life to this memory.
The genocide was the result of systematic planning from the part of the government and organized relocations, as well as the preceding isolation spread effectively in a policy for extermination.
The decimation of millions of Armenians in 1915 is the biggest wound of this land. The genocide is not limited to the physical destruction of a previously existing presence; it also includes the societal, cultural, and spatial affiliation of these people. The genocide is the common history and destruction of everyone’s experience in an effort to destroy the past altogether.
The attempt to demolish Camp Armen is the most effective evidence that shows that the genocide in Turkey is not over; in fact, it shows quite the opposite—that the politics of annihilation is violently continuing.
The murder of Hrant Dink from the part of the state, the protection of the murderers who did not face trial, the murder of Sevag Balıkçı on April 24, 2011, when serving his mandatory military service, the homicide of Maritsa Küçük, the victimized Armenian population throughout Turkey by the state itself and official institutions, the isolation, the expropriation and the countless injury, fear, intimidation, threats, and oppression that continue, all serve as proof that the genocide is continuing.
We call out to Armenians and all friends of the Armenian people to take responsibility of Camp Armen and say, “Never again,” for the camp represents what began in 1915 and continues today, but through more effective ways through denial and the exclusion of Armenians and other populations by means of policies of intimidation and destruction.
Camp Armen is entrusted to us from our orphans, from our brothers and sisters who took refuge in the shade of the trees they planted, from Hrant Dink, and from all slain Armenians. Camp Armen is the venue to foster hope, unity, and fraternity despite all our losses.
We call on everyone to take on the entrusted responsibility that is Camp Armen, which represents our common past, future, and our fight to co-exist.