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 former summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, which provided asylum for Armenian orphans until 1983, the Armenian Weekly reports.
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 activists intervened.
“This delay and the media attention it has sparked within Turkey itself provide a short window for U.S. leadership in demanding that the Turkish government not destroy this center of Armenian cultural and religious identity in Turkey,” read the ANCA statement accompanying the action alert.
The ANCA is asking the public to take a moment to write to their senators and representatives, urging them to call on the U.S. State Department to help stop the destruction of Camp Armen.
In a May 18 letter to Turkey’s U.S. Ambassador John R. Bass, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian urged the embassy to put pressure on Turkish authorities to stop the demolition of the camp and return the property to its rightful owner. “We urgently call upon you to demand that the Turkish authorities immediately stop any further demolitions; reverse the illegal seizure of this property; return the Camp to its proper owners—the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church; fully compensate the Church both for recent damages and decades of lost use; and allow this centerpiece of Armenian cultural and religious identity in Turkey to operate once again—in an unrestricted manner—as a youth camp,” read a part of the letter.
The Nor Zartonk Armenian youth movement of Istanbul has led a campaign to occupy the grounds of the camp since bulldozers first arrived to demolish it.
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.