YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—The fight to save Camp Armen has entered its 94th day, after public outcry led by Armenian activists in Istanbul hampered plans to demolish the historic Armenian site earlier in May.
Several activists involved in the campaign have traveled to Yerevan to seek appeal from Armenian society over the issue.
At a press conference on Friday in Yerevan, Sayat Tekir, Co-chairman of the Nor Zartonk movement, which has led the effort to save Camp Armen, said that the Turkish state had seized the orphanage and summer camp from the local Armenian community, privatized it, and that Camp Armen now is being moved to the ownership of a seventh proprietor.
“One-third of Camp Armen is already demolished. Our [Nor Zartonk’s] demands are addressed to the [Turkish] state, since it seized the territory of the orphanage from us,” Tekir said.
According to Tekir, Turkish authorities have agreed to give the Armenian community of Istanbul a small portion of the land that once belonged to the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church, a plan which Armenian activists strongly oppose.
“We demand that the Turkish state hand over to us the deed of purchase to eventually resolve the property-related issue. Armenian children have been educated here since 1962; everything there was built with their own efforts, and the money was paid in due time. So we have to struggle to the end,” he said.
Tekir also noted that the local Armenian community needs a document that will legally specify the community’s right to the land.
“We expect public support from the residents of Armenia,” added Tekir. “All the injustices by the [Turkish] state have become known in Turkey, too.”
According to Tekir, 1,500 Turkish citizens have joined the campaign to save Camp Armen.
“Turks, Kurds, Alevis support us. We are expressed support not solely from Istanbul, but other cities [in Turkey],” Tekir said.
Anush Karzan Asaturian, a spokesperson for Nor Zartonk, explained that the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church and School Foundation purchased the land on which the camp’s current building was constructed, after obtaining the necessary permissions.
Ethnic minorities in both the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey had the right to acquire property until 1974, when a Turkish court ruled that minority groups could not own property and ordered that all land purchased after 1936 be returned to the state, including Camp Armen. When plans to demolish the orphanage and build luxury homes in its place were revealed earlier this year, Nor Zartonk launched its current campaign and successfully halted the demolition temporarily.
Camp Armen was once home to 1,500 Armenian children, including the late Hrant Dink, founder and editor of Turkey’s first Armenian bilingual newspaper, Agos. Dink was shot dead in 2007 outside the Agos office in Istanbul.
“For the sake of our common past and future, we call on all the people supporting our campaign to take Kamp Armen, the institution of Armenian orphans entrusted to us, under their care,” Tekir said.