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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs