Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation

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Armenian orphanage in Turkey being donated to Armenian foundation

The owner of the land of the Armenian Children’s Camp, which has been at the center of ongoing controversy with activists attempting to prevent a planned demolition of the former orphanage, has announced that he will be donating it to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation.

“I respectfully announce to the public that I will be donating the land to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation… with the hopes of contributing to social harmony and unity of our country in line with our Armenian citizens thoughts and wishes,” announced Fatih Ulusoy, who owns the land where the former orphanage is located, in a written statement published Saturday.

Ulusoy noted that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s request that the issue be resolved had been relayed to him through the efforts of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Istanbul Chair Selim Temurci and Tuzla District Mayor Şadi Yazıcı. He added that when he purchased the deed to the land back in 2006 there had been no mention or information regarding there being an orphanage on the land, and also that he was personally upset by some of the speculations that had arisen around the issue.

Colloquially known as Camp Armen, the Armenian Children’s Camp located in Istanbul’s far-off Asian district of Tuzla had been the center of protest over the past few weeks as activists camped out at the site seeking to protect the former orphanage from a planned demolition. Bulldozers entered the site two weeks ago and destroyed half the 8,900 square meter structure, when intervention by activists and outrage on social media halted the demolition. The Armenian weekly newspaper Agos reported that the machinery had already demolished five bedrooms, the camp director's room, the chapel and some of the surrounding fences.

Camp Armen was built by the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church Foundation in 1962 in part by the orphans who were at the camp. But a high court ruling issued in 1974 stated that "minority foundations cannot own property" and in 1983 the camp was closed and the deed to the land was returned to its former owner despite legal action taken by the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church, which owned and operated the camp, to prevent its closure. The ownership of the land has since changed hands several times, with the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church fighting an abortive legal battle to win back the orphanage.

Alexis Kalk, the spokesperson for the Armen Group platform, had condemned the demolition plan last week and called for the return of the property to the Armenian foundation. “Our goal by guarding the site is to end the lawless action backed by the state,” he said, “We will not leave the site until the situation is resolved. Our intentions are not to create an incident but to have the confiscated property be returned to its rightful owners.”

Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2007, was the most famous resident of Camp Armen.

May 23, 2015 | | Istanbul

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