Turkey's Armenian community waiting to regain ownership over symbolic building in Istanbul

After popular mobilization, former Kamp Armen orphanage will be returned to the Gedikpasa Armenian Church · The building hosted 1,500 Armenian orphans before 1993, among which writer Hrant Dink · Activists want the site to be immediately returned to Armenian hands

In what could end up as a victory for popular mobilization in Istanbul, Turkey's Armenian community is waiting to regain ownership over the former Gedikpasa orphanage, also known as Kamp Armen, which was intended to be demolished in order to build apartments. Orphanage land owner Fatih Ulusoy has said he is ready to transfer it to its original owner, the foundation of the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant Church.

Part of the orphanage was demolished on 6th May. The mobilization by the Armenian community, which was joined by groups of Istanbul neighbours and by the pro-Kurdish HDP party, prevented the bulldozers from continuing their demolition. 19 days later, the Nor Zartonk association -which is lef by people demanding the recognition of Turkey's Armenian community- announced that the owner had decided to donate the orphanage.

Kamp Armen had been expropriated by the Turkish state in 1987, and has since gone through the hands of several owners. According to a 2011 Turkish government decree approved, lands and buildings expropriated to minority foundations should be returned to their original owners.

From 1962 to 1993, Kamp Armen hosted some 1,500 Armenian orphans. One of its most famous residents was the Turkish Armenian writer Hrant Dink, assassinated in 2007 by a Turkish ultranationalist.

Activists continue to be concerned

Despite the announcement, Nor Zartonk activists are worried because, according to them, the return of Kamp Armen to Armenian hands should be immediate, "without any conditions and without any restrictions." The group fears that "delay tactics" will be used postpone the donation until after the 7th June Turkish election: "The State, which confiscated our camp 31 years ago, must return it to us immediately," activists say.

Speaking to Hürriyet newspaper, Pastor Krikor Agabaloglu of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church says the current orphanage building will be demolished and will be rebuilt it the same. "This time," Agabaloglu says, " it will not host only Armenian children but its doors will be open to children from all nations."