Says Paylan: ‘We will resist’
ISTANBUL (A.W.)—Camp Armen, the former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, which provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983, underwent demolition this morning despite campaigns to stop its destruction, reported Agos.
The Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church initiated a legal campaign for the return of the camp, which had been marked for demolition to make room for luxury residential buildings, reported Agos on April 30.
It was initially reported that the demolition was planned for late May.
Garo Paylan, 42, one of three ethnic Armenians running on the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) ticket in Turkey’s June general election, voiced his concern about the destruction of the camp on his public Facebook page.
“The excavator is now in our children’s camp in Tuzla. We will try to resist so that our efforts, our hopes, will not be destroyed once again,” Paylan wrote.
Soon after the demolition began on May 6, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily reported that the work had paused following intervention by concerned citizens, which included Paylan and another HDP candidate, Sezin Uçar, as well as Ali Çelik, the Tuzla district head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“The demolition had already begun but we arrived here and stopped it. They will now call the police to remove us. However, more people are arriving by the minute. We will resist,” Paylan wrote.
The demolition received widespread attention in Turkey once news broke out on social media. #KampArmen immediately became a trending topic on social media.
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 was left abandoned for years following its seizure.
Speaking to Agos last week, the pastor of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church, Kirkor Ağabaloğlu, said that the condition of the Tuzla Camp was a disgrace. “A property of our church is in the hands of the state. It was clearly seized from us. It is a disgrace,” he said, adding that the church had tried all legal paths to regain the camp following its seizure.