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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More