ISTANBUL (Armenian Weekly) – The Nor Zartonk Armenian youth movement of Istanbul held a solidarity demonstration in Istanbul on May 22, calling on authorities to stop the demolition of Camp Armen and urging the return of the confiscated property to the Armenian community.
Over a thousand demonstrators gathered at the Beyoğlu Tünel Square on Istiklal Street to voice their concern over the fate of the historic Armenian camp, including Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) municipal candidate Murad Mıhçı.
Demonstrators held signs in Turkish saying “Give Camp Armen back to the Foundation,” “Camp Armen belongs to Armenians,” as well as other slogans.
A statement released by Nor Zartonk that was read at the demonstration, said that the group will continue their protest actions until the camp’s deed is transferred to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation. “This is not just a building; it is a historic struggle for justice,” read Sayat Tekir, member of the Nor Zartonk movement, adding “our resistance will continue until Camp Armen’s deed is returned to the [Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church] Foundation.”
The camp had been marked for demolition to make room for luxury residential buildings. Yet, soon after the demolition began on May 6, work was halted when concerned citizens intervened. Protesters have since held a live-in demonstration at Camp Armen, which is now in its 17th day.
On May 20, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) started an action alert calling on the public to urge Congress to support swift U.S. action against Turkey’s destruction of Camp Armen, the former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, which provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983.
The state seized the camp from the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation in 1987, after the Turkish Court of Cassation approved a decree by the local court. The state later gave the land to a previous owner on the basis of a 1936 declaration.
The camp was once home to around 1,500 children, including the late Hrant Dink, his wife Rakel, and Parliamentarian Erol Dora. It had been left abandoned for years following its seizure.