Turkey’s Human Rights Association takes Armenian orphanage to Europe’s agenda

The Human Rights Association (İHD) in Turkey has brought the case of a partly demolished Armenian orphanage in Istanbul to the agenda of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Demolition of the Kamp Armen orphanage started in May but was subsequently halted, when the owner of the land said he would donate it to the Armenian community in Istanbul.

Speaking at a press conference on June 29, a member of the İHD’s central executive board, lawyer Eren Keskin, along with other members of the association, said they had sent separate letters to Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri to draw attention to the Kamp Armen issue.

“In the letter, we said it was a heavy human rights violation that Kamp Armen’s certificate of ownership had not been returned to the Armenian community and that Turkey was not fulfilling the European Union criteria it had vowed to reach,” said Keskin.

Efforts to demolish the orphanage – where thousands of Armenian orphans, including slain journalist Hrant Dink, had grown up – began on May 6, drawing widespread attention once news broke on social media. Later in the day, the demolition was stopped when groups including activists and leading figures from the Armenian community rushed to the area to protest the destruction.

The protesters, who had held a vigil for 19 days, vowed on May 27 that they would continue camping in the area until the license for the buildings is given to the foundation.

Keskin claimed that Turkey was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which as an international agreement holds higher validity than national laws. He added that Turkey was also violating the Treaty of Lausanne, in which the rights of Turkey’s minorities were outlined.

Pastor Krikor Ağabaloğlu of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church said they planned to rebuild the demolished structures as soon as they receive the license.

“The orphanage cannot be used at the moment. But we plan to demolish it and rebuilt it in the same way. [When it reopens] it will not host only Armenian children, its doors will be open to children from all nations,” Ağabaloğlu told daily Hürriyet on May 27.

Fatih Ulusoy, the owner of the camp’s land, was reported as promising on May 24 to donate Kamp Armen to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church and School.

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