Tomb of Suleyman Shah

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Tomb of Suleyman Shah
Turkish: Süleyman Şah Türbesi
View of 1973-2015 building complex of the Tomb of Suleyman Shah from the Euphrates river
View of 1973-2015 building complex of the Tomb of Suleyman Shah from the Euphrates river
Tomb of Suleyman Shah is located in Syria
Tomb of Suleyman Shah
Tomb of Suleyman Shah
Coordinates: 36°52′45″N 38°6′20″E / 36.87917°N 38.10556°E / 36.87917; 38.10556
Country  Syria (geographically located) and  Turkey(ownership)
Governorate Aleppo Governorate
Elevation 475 m (1,558 ft)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)

The Tomb of Suleyman Shah (Turkish: Süleyman Şah Türbesi) is a site situated in Aleppo Governorate, Syria. It is the burial place of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. He is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates river in modern-day Syria and an Ottoman tomb in or near Qal'at Ja'bar has been associated with Suleyman Shah.[1]

The tomb has been moved twice and is (from early 2015) in Turkish-controlled territory 200 meters inside Syria, 22 km (14 mi) west of Kobanî and less than 2 km (1.2 mi) southeast of the Turkish village of Esmesi (Esmeler or Esme or Eshme).[2] The Turkish government intends the relocation to be temporary.[3]

Legal status[edit]

Article 9 of the Treaty of Ankara, signed by France and Turkey in 1921, states that the tomb "shall remain, with its appurtenances, the property of Turkey, who may appoint guardians for it and may hoist the Turkish flag there".[4] This was confirmed by Article 3 of Section I. of the Treaty of Lausanne.[5] Neither Treaty states that the tomb is deemed to be the territory of Turkey. The Protocol between the Republic of Turkey and the Syrian Arab Republic regarding the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, 2003 gave Turkey transit rights to the Tomb through Syrian territory, in order to maintain and carry out repairs at the Tomb.[6]

Since 2014, the official position of Turkey appears to be that the land around the tomb is the sovereign territory of Turkey.[3][7] However, no other state, including Syria, has publicly supported this position. The Syrian position is that the relocation of the tomb in 2015 is a breach of the Treaty of Ankara.[8]

First relocation[edit]

In 1973 Tomb of Suleyman Shah

In 1973, the location of the tomb was flooded when the Tabqa Dam created Lake Assad. At that time, the tomb was moved to a new location at 36°38′22″N 38°12′27″E / 36.63944°N 38.20750°E / 36.63944; 38.20750 some 85 km (53 mi) north of Qal'at Ja'bar,[9] but also on the Euphrates riverside 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northwest of the town of Sarrin and some 27 km (17 mi) from the Turkish border. Until February 2015, Turkey maintained a small military presence as an honour guard at this site.

Events during the war in Syria[edit]

On 5 August 2012, during the Syrian Civil War, the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that "The tomb of Suleyman Shah [in Syria] and the land surrounding it is our territory. We cannot ignore any unfavourable act against that monument, as it would be an attack on our territory, as well as an attack on NATO land... Everyone knows his duty, and will continue to do what is necessary".[10]

On 20 March 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened to attack the site unless the Turkish troops were withdrawn within three days. The Turkish government reiterated that any attack on the tomb would be treated as an attack on Turkish soil.[11]

On 27 March 2014, recordings were released on YouTube[12] of a conversation purportedly involving then Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, then National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) head Hakan Fidan, and Deputy Chief of General Staff General Yaşar Güler. The recording has been reported as being probably recorded at Davutoğlu's office at the Foreign Ministry on 13 March.[13] Transcripts of the conversation reveal that, as well as exploring the options for Turkish forces engaging in false flag operations inside Syria, the meeting involved a discussion about using the threat to the tomb as an excuse for Turkey to intervene militarily inside Syria. Davutoğlu stated that Erdogan told him that he saw the threat to the tomb as an "opportunity".[14]

On 2 October 2014, Turkish lawmakers authorised the use of the Turkish military against ISIL purportedly based on the threat of ISIL capturing the tomb.[15]

Second relocation[edit]

On the night of 21–22 February 2015, a Turkish military convoy including tanks and other armored vehicles numbering about 100 entered Syria to evacuate the tomb's 40 guards and repatriate the remains. One soldier died during the operation. The tomb complex was destroyed to prevent its use or destruction by ISIL.[16] The tomb is now located in Turkish-controlled territory 200 meters inside Syria, 22 km (14 mi) west of Kobanî and 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the Euphrates, less than 2 km (1.2 mi) southeast of the Turkish village of Esmesi (Esmeler or Esme or Eshme) in southernmost Birecik District.[2] The Turkish Foreign Minister has stated that the relocation is only a temporary measure.[3]


  1. ^ Sourdel, D. (2009). "ḎJabar or Ḳalat ḎJabar". In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, et al. Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill online. 
  2. ^ a b "Turkish military enters Syria to evacuate soldiers, relocate tomb". Reuters. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Evacuated military post in Syria still on Turkish land: FM". Xinhua. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "Franco-Turkish agreement of Ankara" (in French and English). Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Turkey to defend Syria exclave at all costs: President". Anadolu Agency. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-10-18. 
  8. ^ Said, Haifa (2015-02-22). "Turkey’s transgression into Syrian territory proves its connection with ISIS, Foreign Ministry says". Syrian Arab News Agency. Retrieved 2015-02-22. 
  9. ^ Burns, R. (1999). Monuments of Syria. An historical guide. London: I.B. Tauris. pp. 180–181. ISBN 1-86064-244-6. 
  10. ^ Ankara warns against attack on tomb, Hürriyet Daily News, 7 August 2012.
  11. ^ Erdoğan: Attacking tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey, Today's Zaman, 26 March 2014.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ YouTube ban: How Turkish officials conspired to stage Syria attack to provoke war RT, 28 March 2014.
  15. ^ Turkish lawmakers OK military action against ISIS CNN, 2 October 2014.
  16. ^ "Turkey enters Syria to evacuate Suleyman Shah tomb". BBC. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.