Turkey controls a tiny exclave about 20 miles south of its border, an exclave around the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman, consider the first Ottoman ruler. Ishaan Tharoor writes about how it matters today
So potent was the symbolism of this Ottoman ancestor's tomb that the new
Turkish republic concluded an agreement in 1921 with France, then
Syria's colonial ruler, guaranteeing Ankara's ownership over the site.
Since at least the 1970s, when the tomb was relocated following the
damming of the Euphrates, a Turkish guard has been posted there to protect it.
The arrangement over the tomb, in most circumstances, would be a curious
footnote of history. But it now may be at the heart of a battle in one
of the more intense fronts of the brutal, three-year-long Syrian civil
war. The site is not far from the border city of Kobane, where the
extremist fighters of the Islamic State have been advancing on Syrian
Kurdish militias. The battles of the past few weeks prompted the single most dramatic refugee exodus of the whole war: a conspicuous moment, given that the conflict has displaced roughly a quarter of all Syrians.
As Syrian Kurdish militias struggle to resist the Islamic State, it's
believed that the tomb has been encircled by Islamic State forces and
that the Turkish soldiers guarding it have been taken hostage. Details
are a bit murky.
Kurds accuse Turkey of tacitly supporting ISIS in the region, which the Turks vociferously deny.
Labels: ISIS, Kurds, Syria, Turkey