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Camp Armen to be Rebuilt into a Social and Cultural Facility

ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)— Camp Armen, the former Armenian summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, which was returned to the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church Foundation on Oct. 27, 2015, will be rebuilt as a social and cultural facility, reported Istanbul based Hurriyet Daily News.

A banner reads ‘This is the beginning, continue to struggle!’ in Turkish, and “We were, we are, and we will remain,’ in Armenian at the entrance of the camp (Photo: Nor Zartonk Facebook page)

On May 12, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s municipal council unanimously accepted the construction plan regarding the orphanage, which will be rebuilt taking the original building into account.

Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, a council member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Hüseyin Sağ, said Camp Armen was significant since Hrant Dink was raised there. Sağ added that Camp Armen had become a social and cultural facility area and that Turkey’s Armenian citizens, as well as Muslims and non-Muslims will utilize the facility in the future.

According to the construction plan, the area will include vocational courses, movie theaters, exhibition and conference halls, a library, a dormitory, a nursing home, and an orphanage.

The plan will also ensure the protection of green areas.

Camp Armen was built in 1962 by the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church. It was expropriated by the Turkish state in 1987 on the basis of a 1936 bill preventing minority foundations from acquiring property.

Although the Turkish government signed a historic decree in 2011 to return property taken away from minority foundations, the camp was omitted, along with hundreds of other properties.

Fatih Ulusoy, the land owner, had initially tried to demolish Camp Armen in May 2015, but the controversial plan was shelved as Ulusoy said he would donate it to the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church and School Foundation.

Efforts to demolish the camp received widespread attention once the news broke on social media. The demolition was subsequently stopped when activists and leading figures from the Armenian community protested and held demonstrations at the site.

Nor Zartonk, the Armenian youth movement in Istanbul, was at the forefront of protest actions demanding the return of the property to the foundation. Scores of activists demonstrated over the course of the 175 days of resistance against the destruction of Camp Armen.

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.

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