News / Middle East

Turkey Warns of Syrian Intervention to Protect Ancient Tomb

This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria.
This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) marching in Raqqa, Syria.
Dorian Jones
Turkey has warned it will take any necessary steps to protect the Suleyman Shah tomb in Syria if it comes under attack.  The tomb, which is protected by Turkish soldiers, is located in the city of Aleppo in Syria near the Turkish border and Ankara considers it to be Turkish territory.  

Turkey’s political leadership has reacted strongly to a threat made by the radical group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, to attack the Suleyman Shah tomb protected by Turkish soldiers in Syria.  Tensions recently have been on the rise with Ankara strongly condemning ISIS’s tactics in Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a television interview said everything would be done to protect the tomb saying it is Turkish property under the guarantee of international agreements.  He said any attack on the tomb would be considered an attack on Turkey.

Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.  In a deal between France and Turkey in 1921 when Syria was under French rule, the tomb and a 25-kilometer area surrounding it became Turkish territory.  A Turkish flag flies above it. 

Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar for the Carnegie Europe institute, says Ankara is serious about its threat to intervene.

"There is now a threat to ISIS to that shrine; there are 25 Turkish soldiers currently there and the Turkish government takes this threat seriously because it is Turkish territory," said Ulgen.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Ankara has strongly backed the Syrian rebels.  Turkish forces have been massed along the 900-kilometer Syrian border for more than a year. 

Diplomatic columnist Semih Idiz of the Turkish newspaper Taraf and Al Monitor website says any incursion into Syria could be for the long term.

"I can foresee a period where Turkish forces go in there, but not only go there to protect the tomb; to actually create a safety buffer zone around it and maybe even open a corridor between mainland Turkey and the region," said Idiz.

Turkish-Syrian tensions have been on the rise.  Last week, Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian bomber after Ankara claimed it violated its airspace, a charge Damascus denies.  In the past few days, the Turkish military has alleged Syrian air defenses locked their missiles on its planes. Ulgen says any incursion into Syria to protect its forces is an extremely risky move.

"An incursion deep into Syrian territory [of] Turkish expeditionary forces to reprisal attacks by not only extremists groups but by also possibly by Syrian regime as well and from that point onward Turkey would be implicated in the Syrian war," said Ulgen.

Turkish opposition parties oppose the government’s support of the Syrian rebels.  They have accused the prime minister of trying to provoke a conflict with Syria in order to change the political agenda, which remains focused on high level government corruption allegations, a charge angrily dismissed by ministers. 

Columnist Idiz says the government will have to finely calibrate any intervention into Syria.

"Whatever operation Turkey engages in as a result of this tomb will have to be seen as a self-defense operation or an operation in response to an attack rather than as a stepping stone to start attacking Syrian forces; because that could turn public opinion against the government and against an operation," said Idiz.

Opinion polls indicate there is little backing for government support of the Syrian opposition.  Observers, however, say the government will be looking to the country's strong nationalist sentiments to back any operation into Syria, whatever the dangers.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs