Tomb of Suleyman Shah

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Tomb of Suleyman Shah
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 series of sites (all geographically situated in Aleppo Governorate, Syria), which housed the relics of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Suleyman Shah 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 him.[1] Under the Treaty of Lausanne this tomb site remained the property of Turkey after the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.

By agreement between Turkey and Syria, the tomb was moved in 1973 when its original site was due to be flooded under Lake Assad. Turkey unilaterally moved the tomb again in early 2015 during the Syrian Civil War, to a new site in Syria, about 180 meters from the Turkish border, 22 km (14 mi) west of Kobanî and just north of the Syrian village of Ashme,[2] evacuating the approximately 40 Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb. [3] The Turkish government has stated that the relocation is temporary,[4] and that it does not constitute any change to the status of the tomb.[5][6]

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".[7] This was confirmed by Article 3 of Section I. of the Treaty of Lausanne.[8] Neither Treaty states that the tomb is deemed to be the sovereign 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.[9]

Since 2014, the official position of Turkey appears to be that the land around the 1973-2015 location of the tomb is the sovereign territory of Turkey.[4][10] Turkey required visitors to the site to carry passports.[11] However, there is no evidence to date that other countries, including Syria, have publicly supported this position.

The Syrian position is that the relocation of the tomb in 2015 is a breach of the Treaty of Ankara.[12]

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,[13] 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 unfavorable 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".[14]

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.[15]

On 27 March 2014, recordings were released on YouTube[16] of a conversation purportedly involving then Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, then National Intelligence Organization (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.[17] 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".[18]

On 2 October 2014, Turkish lawmakers authorized the use of the Turkish military against ISIL purportedly based on the threat of ISIL capturing the tomb.[19]

Second relocation[edit]

On the night of 21–22 February 2015, a Turkish military convoy including tanks and other armored vehicles numbering about 100 undertook "Operation Shah Euphrates". They entered Syria to evacuate the tomb's 40 guards and repatriate the remains. One soldier died in an accident.[3] The tomb complex was destroyed to prevent its use or destruction by ISIL.[20] The tomb is now located at a Turkish-controlled site just north of the Syrian village of Ashme,[21] about 180 meters inside Syria,[2] and across the border from the Turkish town of Eşmeler in the Birecik district of Şanliurfa,[22] 5 km (3.1 mi) east of the Euphrates, 10 km (6.2 mi) northeast of the Syrian town of Jarabulus and 22 km (14 mi) west of Kobani, Syria.[23] The Turkish Foreign Minister has stated that the relocation is only a temporary measure.[4]


  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 "Minister invites Turks to visit planned tomb site in Syria". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Turkish military enters Syria to evacuate soldiers, relocate tomb". Reuters. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c "Evacuated military post in Syria still on Turkish land: FM". Xinhua. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Franco-Turkish agreement of Ankara" (PDF) (in French and English). Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Turkey to defend Syria exclave at all costs: President". Anadolu Agency. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2014-10-18. 
  11. ^ Cagaptay, Soner (9 April 2012). "A Piece of Turkey Lies in the Middle of the Syrian Desert". CNN Global Public Square blog. Retrieved 27 February 2015 – via The Washington Institute. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Burns, R. (1999). Monuments of Syria. An historical guide. London: I.B. Tauris. pp. 180–181. ISBN 1-86064-244-6. 
  14. ^ Ankara warns against attack on tomb, Hürriyet Daily News, 7 August 2012.
  15. ^ Erdoğan: Attacking tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey, Today's Zaman, 26 March 2014.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ YouTube ban: How Turkish officials conspired to stage Syria attack to provoke war RT, 28 March 2014.
  19. ^ Turkish lawmakers OK military action against ISIS CNN, 2 October 2014.
  20. ^ "Turkey enters Syria to evacuate Suleyman Shah tomb". BBC. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  21. ^ The name of Ashme is spelled normally Eşme in Turkish media and often Esme in English-language media.
  22. ^ "Süleyman Şah’ın yeni türbesi için hummalı çalışma". Hürriyet. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Meaning and Possible Consequences of Shah Euphrates Operation". ORSAM. 28 February 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.