History of #KampArmen in 20 images

The story of an Armenian orphanage in Istanbul tells what happened to Armenians in Turkey after 1915.


The modern Turkish state confiscated properties of non-Muslims starting from 1915. After the genocide, “abandoned properties commission” sold Armenian goods by public auctions. In 1942, Wealth Tax forced wealthy non-Muslims to sell their properties. 1955 Istanbul Pogrom created more “abandoned” properties to change hands to Turkish owners.

But it was the 1974 high-court decision that put the final nail: The non-Muslim foundations were deemed legally unfit to own properties they purchased.

Map: The seized properties of Istanbul Armenian Foundations. (Kamp Armen is the one at the bottom right.)

This week, a plan to demolish Kamp Armen, the Armenian Children’s Camp in Tuzla, Istanbul, has started. While the current “legal owner” wants to build villas, the Armenian community claims historical ownership and wants the government to undo its past wrongs.

As often, it takes a retrospective look to understand today’s Turkey. Here is the history of #KampArmen in 20 images.

1950’s

Since there were no Armenian schools left in Anatolia after 1915, orphans and poor children stayed at the orphanage at the first floor of the Gedikpaşa (Kumkapı) Armenian Protestant Church in Istanbul.

Orphans at the Gedikpaşa (Kumkapı) Armenian Protestant Church

1961

Church foundation choosed this field in Tuzla (east of Istanbul) to build a summer camp for the children; a plain field between the sea and a nearby lake.

Tuzla in 1950s: The area where Kamp Armen was built.

15 November 1962

Church bought the field from a local, Sait Durmaz. After Istanbul Governorship and the General Directorate of Foundations approved the purchase, “Kumkapı Armenian Protestant Church Foundation” became the registered owner of the land as of 31 July 1964.

Title deed of the Kamp Armen, also known as the Tuzla Children’s Kamp.

Summer of 1963

30 children, between the ages of 8 to 12, were the first group of children who helped to build the camp.

The first ‘labour battalion’ of Kamp Armen.

At first, they stayed in tents, and under a local foreman (Hasan Güloğlu) started to dig the foundations of the building.

The stones and sand for the construction came from the sea, about 500m from the camp area.

They planted poplar trees.

These saplings will grow as the children will.

mid-1960’s

After a few summers, the first floor was done, they could leave the tents.

The chicken of Garabet. Garabet Orunöz was 7 when he first moved to the camp from Malatya, East of Turkey, after his mother died. He was in charge of chicken and the eggs.

Meanwhile, the poplar trees were growing.

Poplar needs a lot water.

But the kids were still kids ☺

Attention children! Dancing on the roof is dangerous and fun.

Water for the trees.

Small ones worked like bees.

Late 1960’s

Many a little, makes Camp Armen.

Many small rooms for the children and tutors, and a large room at front for dining and lectures.

1970’s

Then, morning gymnastics took place under tree shades.

Gym classes never change.

Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was assassinated on 19 January 2007, joined the children of Camp Armen at 7 when his parents were separated. He met his future wife, Rakel Dink, there and the couple took care of the children until the camp was seized.

Rakel Dink: It was the biggest wish of Hrant that Camp Armen is preserved.

23 February 1979

General Directorate of Foundation applied to the court to declare Church’s title invalid. After a 4-year-long legal battle, Children’s Camp area and its building was given back to its previous owner, free of charge.

(figurative)

1996

Kamp Armen with no kids, no chicken, no laughter.

The road to the sea..

7 April 2015

The last reunion at Kamp Armen, last picnic with kids, last songs..

6 May 2015, morning

The demolition.

How much kid-power does a digger have?

6 May 2015, evening

The resistence.

Istanbul City Defence: “The decision of the forum at #KampArmen is to stay at night. We will reclaim our past and our future. #KampArmenYıkılmasın”

7 May 2015

The wall with the fish, that Hrant Dink drew, is still standing.

All the small fish, organise!

8 May 2015

Activists, politicians, children who grew up in Kamp Armen — and their children — united to stop the demolition.

We are here, where are you? #KampArmen

End note

The current “legal owner” of Kamp Armen, a wealthy businessmen, tells that he started the demolition without knowing the history of the orphanage. He suspended the demolition as of 7 May, and gave a one month notice for a solution.

Activists, who are currently occupying Kamp Armen demand that the property should be given back to the Armenian community.

You can follow them of Facebook and Twitter.

Bonus: Swallow’s Nest

Hrant Dink tells about the “Atlantis Civilisation” in this 2007 documentary

Sources

Hrant Dink Foundation, The destroyed “Atlantis Civilisation” Tuzla Armenian Children’s Camp [Turkish]

Map: The seized properties of Istanbul Armenian Foundations

Garabet Orunöz, This is written on behalf of the Kamp Armen children, Evrensel, 3 May 2015 [Turkish]

Hrant Dink, Don’t get lost children!, AGOS [Turkish]

dört ayaklı şehir

Natali Avazyan

Nor Zartonk

Google Maps

Istanbul City Defence

HDP Tuzla Office

AGOS

KampArmen.org


Originally published in Turkish at Jiyan.org on May 7, 2015.

Correction: The previous version of the article stated that Hrant Dink was an orphan. I would like to thank LGBTI News Turkey for this correction.