The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is known to destroy tombs and sacred temples held dear to Christians and Muslims in Iraq and Syria because the buildings, they claim, are idolatrous. Their next victim might be the Suleyman Shah tomb in Aleppo, Syria, built in Turkish territory in 1921 under a treaty with France when the French ruled Syria.
Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire, was founded in 1299. It expanded to southeast Europe, western Asia, Caucasus, north Africa, and the Horn of Africa. It collapsed after World War I and evolved into modern day Turkey.
The government sent security to guard the tomb in April. “We can’t leave that place, which is ours through agreements, unprotected,” said Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli. “Regardless of pride, this is important for our historical memory. This is important for everyone, not just for Turks.”
On Tuesday, Turkey moved soldiers and tanks to the Syrian border. Parliament is expected to vote on military action in Iraq and Syria on Thursday. The proposal is not limited to the Islamic State. It will also allow Turkey to “strike Kurdish militants in northern Iraq and defend itself against any threat from [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad’s forces.”
An attack on the tomb could be the turning point for Turkey, who is an interesting player in the fight between the West and the Islamic State. Turkey is a member of NATO, which borders Syria and Iraq, but also has alleged links to the Islamic State terrorist group. The terrorists took over Azaz, a key town in Syria near the border of Turkey in September 2013. That is significant because Turkey “vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed weapons to cross into Syria on its southern border.” The capture of Azaz allowed easier access to Syria to the jihadists. Two months later, CNN featured Turkey’s secret jihadi route to Syria. The Jerusalem Post has also reported of Islamic State members claiming the Turkish government funds the terrorist group. One unnamed source thanked Turkey, adding that terrorist group would not be where they are without the help and funds from Turkey.
In August, Turkey admitted that over 1,000 Turkish nationals joined ISIS. Outside of Arabs, Turkey has the most nationals in the group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO specializing in the region, reported that more than 162 jihadists joined the group after President Barack Obama’s September 10 speech when he offered to arm and help Syrian rebels fight against the Islamic State. The majority are Syrians, but fifteen arrived from Turkey.
Turkey promised NATO they would help fight Islamic State, but backed down in early September. An unnamed official told AFP that “Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation” due to the 49 Turkish hostages Islamic State kidnapped from the consulate in Mosul, Iraq in June. On September 20, the Islamic State released the hostages. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did not say how or why the hostages were released, but did deny paying any ransom.