ISTANBUL — Efforts to demolish Kamp Armen, an Armenian orphanage in Istanbul’s Tuzla district that was expropriated in the wake of Turkey’s 1980 military coup, began early May 6, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
However, demolition work halted with the intervention of concerned citizens including Garo Paylan and Sezin Uçar, parliament candidates from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Ali Çelik, the Tuzla district head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Paylan underlined the spiritual significance of the building and their determination to prevent the razing.
“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,” he said.
“The orphanage is of historical value to us. Some 1,500 children lived here and learned about their culture. We are struggling to prevent its destruction for a second time.”
The issue received widespread attention once the news broke out on social media, with #KampArmen immediately becoming a trending topic.
Kamp Arman is also significant because of its construction, which many of its students took part in.
The orphanage was built in 1962 by the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church, as the former building could not host the increasing number of Armenian students arriving from various parts of Anatolia. Its students included Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was murdered in 2007, his wife Rakel Dink and HDP MP Erol Dora.
The Turkish state expropriated the orphanage in 1987, following the 1980 military coup, based on 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 orphanage was left out of its scope, alongside hundreds of other properties.
The Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church has been fighting an abortive legal battle to win back the orphanage.