Nor Zartonk Spokesperson Norayr Olgar Speaks to the Armenian Weekly
BY RUPEN JANBAZIAN
ISTANBUL, Turkey—After the news broke that Camp Armen, the former Armenian summer camp located in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, would be rebuilt into a social and cultural center, the Nor Zartonk movement—the group largely responsible for the properties return to the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church Foundation in October 2015—hopes that it will be a space for all Armenians to use and engage with.
“We are certain that the new space will accommodate a new generation of young people to come together, initiate programs, and engage with one another,” said Norayr Olgar, the spokesperson for Nor Zartonk.
The Istanbul-based youth movement was at the forefront of protest actions demanding the return of the property to the foundation. Scores of activists headed by Nor Zartonk, demonstrated for months against the destruction of Camp Armen.
“As you know, our occupation of Camp Armen lasted 175 days and the deed to the property was finally returned [to the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church Foundation] in October 2015. Today, almost two years later, it has been decided that the camp will be rebuilt. We [the community] have received permission to rebuild the 5,000 square meter property into a social and cultural space,” says Olgar.
According to him, the space will be rebuilt taking the original building and its plans into consideration—with certain necessary updates, of course. There are also plans to have a special area built, where the youth will learn to play musical instruments and participate in creative programs. “Just like at the TUMO Center in Yerevan,” Olgar explains.
For Olgar and the Nor Zartonk movement, the return of Camp Armen and the news of its renovation is most welcome, but does not signify the end of the group’s struggle. “Camp Armen is not the only property that was confiscated from the Armenian community. Many properties were taken from us, both before the Republic of Turkey was founded and since then. Almost every time, they have been confiscated illegally,” Olgar says. “The confiscation of Armenian properties—churches, lands, camps, homes—has been a big part of the politics of this country for years now.”
Olgar says that the updated camp—as well as other properties he hopes will be returned in the future—will not only be used by the Armenian community of Istanbul, but by all Armenians around the world.
“All of our properties must be returned and once they are returned, they must be used by the Armenian community—not only by the Armenian community of Istanbul, but by Armenians across the Diaspora and Armenia as well,” he says. “Yes, the camp was returned after much struggle, protest, and even occupation, but the problem does not begin and end with Camp Armen. These properties belong to all of us—to all Armenians.”