Turkish president salutes military post at tomb in Syria

Turkish president salutes military post at tomb in Syria

Turkish president salutes military post at tomb in Syria

The Turkish Air Force recently released pictures of a Turkish jet flying over the Süleyman Şah tomb in Syria. AA Photo

As Turkey is embroiled in troubles emanating from the civil war in neighbor Syria on the 91st anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the occasion to issue a message in support of soldiers defending the 700-year-old tomb of Suleyman Shah, a Turkish enclave in northern Syria.

“I want to recall once again that, as the nation, we are proud of our Mehmetçik who heroically protect our homeland territory, our flag with the star and crescent, and the tomb of the late Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman Gazi [the founder of the Ottoman Empire], without bowing to any threats or danger,” Erdoğan said in a written message released late on Oct. 28, addressing soldiers deployed at the military post a day before the Republic Day anniversary.

Mehmetçik, “Little Mehmet,” is a popularly used nickname for conscripts. Erdoğan’s message, posted on the official website of the presidency, was separate from another message addressing the entire nation in celebration of Republic Day.

“Also today, I want to remind once more that the Republic of Turkey will continue to stand by you in the event of any attack against our homeland, our crescent and star flag, our Mehmetçik, and the sacred memory of Suleyman Shah,” Erdoğan added.

The Suleyman Shah tomb, located 30 kilometers from the Turkish border inside Syria, was made Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when France was the colonial power in Syria. Ankara regards it as sovereign territory and has repeatedly made clear that it will defend the mausoleum if it is attacked.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, foreign minister at the time, said in March that Turkey would retaliate against any attack on the tomb, as Islamic State tightened its grip on surrounding areas.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Islamist groups, whose strict Salafi interpretation of Islam deems the veneration of tombs idolatrous, have destroyed many tombs and mosques in Syria since the civil war broke out over three years ago.

A motion adopted on Oct. 2 by Parliament authorized the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria and permit the deployment of foreign troops on its soil.

President Erdoğan also issued a special Eid al-Adha message on Oct. 3 to the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb, vowing that the army would not hesitate to provide immediate support in the event of an attack.