A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Turkish Enclave Deep Inside Syria

Turkish Soldiers at Tomb (Wikipedia)  
Several papers, including Hurriyet Daily News,  have run this story about how Turkish soldiers still guard a tomb that is a small island of sovereign Turkish territory deep within Syria, despite the ongoing upheavals in Syria. I'd thought of posting on this once a while back, as it's the kind of obscure historical sidelight I enjoy dropping in from time to time, but as far as I can tell I never did, and now the Associated Press beat me to it. So, better late than never, I'll take note of it.

It's the tomb, or at least the reputed tomb, of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman who founded the Ottoman Empire. He is said to have drowned in the Euphrates at Qal‘at Ja‘bar, and the tomb believed to be his was honored during Ottoman times. In the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish Republic and France (the Mandatory Power for Syria), the tomb was declared to be sovereign Turkish soil, an extraterritorial enclave within Syria. When the tomb was threatened with inundation by the waters of Lake Asad, the tomb and its extraterritorial status moved some distance to the north.

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