ISTANBUL—The current owner of Camp Armen, Fatih Ulusoy, said on May 23 that he would sign the transfer of the Armenian orphanage, which was set for demolition, over to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Foundation, effectively handing the important building back to the Armenian community decades after it was confiscated.
Camp Armen is the former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul that provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983. Ulusoy’s statement came after weeks of protests by local activists on the camp grounds as well as in the streets of Istanbul, demanding that the site, which faced demolition, be returned to its Armenian owners.
In response to Ulusoy’s statement, Nor Zartonk, the Armenian youth movement in Istanbul that is at the forefront of protest actions demanding the return of the property to the foundation, vowed to continue the struggle until the deed was successfully transferred to the Armenians. “We shall not leave Camp Armen until the land title and related property rights are entirely transferred to the foundation,” they declared.
On May 22, Nor Zartonk held a solidarity demonstration in Istanbul that called on authorities to stop the demolition of Camp Armen and urged the return of the confiscated property to the Armenian community, the Armenian Weekly reports.
Over 1,000 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 that read, “Give Camp Armen back to the Foundation” and “Camp Armen belongs to Armenians.”
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 held a live-in demonstration at Camp Armen.
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 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.
Below is Nor Zartonk’s May 23 statement:
Declaration on Camp Armen
Dear friends, comrades from all around the world and Today, in the 18th day of our Camp Armen resistance, the current property owner of the camp, Fatih Ulusoy, has just declared that he would transfer property rights of the camp to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Foundation. To the press, the national and international community, which have been watching and supporting our resistance, we once again declare that our struggle will continue, and we shall not leave Camp Armen until the land title and related property rights are entirely transferred to the Foundation. We will not end our struggle for Camp Armen until the transfer of property rights, the formal process of land title registration, are officially completed.
Also, we want to remind [the public] that the issue of confiscation, destruction, and usurpation of Armenian premises, properties, and works of Armenian cultural heritage by the state is not limited to Camp Armen. Hundreds of other establishments, buildings, churches, schools, and private and collectively owned properties that have belonged to the Armenian people have shared the same fate as Camp Armen. A solution for these premises cannot be attempted through individual efforts; rather we must proceed collectively, and along with the political demands of the Armenian people.
We once again declare that Camp Armen is, and will, serve as a precedent for further struggles for these confiscated, illegally usurped, and destroyed entities, as well as the social, cultural, and political being of the Armenian people in Turkey. We once again call for the support and solidarity of all concerned parties and of the international community in our struggle to raise the demands of the Armenian people, and to ask the state and political authorities to fulfill their duties in securing the legal completion of the transfer of property rights for all these premises. Until then, we will continue our resistance for Camp Armen.