Last week, the Turkish Army relocated the Tomb of Süleyman Shah to a location closer to the Turkish border. Yet, there have been some controversies about the identity of the remains in the tomb, which belong to a predecessor of the Ottoman Empire
As historical tradition claims, the Turkish-origin Karakeçili clan of the Kayı tribe, which founded the Ottoman Empire, went to eastern Iran via the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea along with the Seljuks in the ninth century. When the Seljuks triumphed over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, they migrated to the west and conquered Anatolia.
Following the Battle Manzikert, the head of the Karakeçili clan, Kaya Alp, settled in the city of Ahlat on the coast of Lake Van. However, when the Khwarazmian dynasty began approaching Ahlat, the people of the clan wanted to go back to their old lands. Kaya Alp's son and successor accepted his people's demand and headed south. While riding his horse as he crossed the Euphrates, he did not realize there was a steep cliff in front of him and fell off and drowned. He was buried by his people in Qalat Jabar, a castle within the borders of present-day Syria. Historians note that this castle was inhabited in the following period by another Turkmen tribe, the Düğers, and it was called the "Turkish Tomb."
The head of the Karakeçili clan who drowned in the Euphrates had four sons. Two of them decided to take a part of the clan and go back to their previous lands, following the footsteps of their father. However, the other two sons, Ertuğrul and Dündar, chose to stay in Anatolia with the remaining 400 families in 1227. Afterward, the Seljuk sultan placed the clan on the northwestern Byzantine border where they established an autonomous principality (beylik).
But what is the name of this glorious person who is the ancestor of an empire that ruled over parts of three continents for six centuries? While some Ottoman historians claim that he is Süleyman Shah, others claim it is Gündüz Alp. Both arguments are most likely true as the first name is an Arabic name and the latter is a Turkic name. As it is known, Turks used their traditional Turkic name as well as their Arabic name after converting to Islam. During the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Tomb was looked after, and even after the empire lost its lands in the region after World War I in 1918, the French accepted Turkish rule over the Tomb of Süleyman Shah in the Treaty of Ankara, which was signed by the representatives of the government formed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and French colonial representative Franklin Bouillon and also determined the Turkish-Syrian border.
The ninth article of the treaty stated, "The tomb in Qalat Jabar of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, Süleyman Shah, which is known as the Turkish Tomb, shall remain, with its appurtenances, the property of Turkey, who may appoint guardians for it and may hoist the Turkish flag there." During the meeting for the Treaty of Lausanne, the same ruling was accepted by all. Since then, the Turkish flag has been flying and a platoon of Turkish soldiers has guarded the tomb, which is regarded as Turkish land. Following the agreement between the Turkish government and Syria in 1956, it was decided that soldiers will change guard on the 17th day of every month and receive supplies on the 20th day.
The tomb, which was rebuilt by Selim I, was 10 meters long, five meters wide and ornamented with Seljuk motifs. It was restored by Abdülhamid II who was known for respecting his forefathers and other prominent figures in Ottoman history. When journalist Refik Halid Karay, who was exiled by the government established by Atatürk, described the heartbreaking state of the tomb in one of his writings in 1929, the tomb was renovated by the then Ministry of National Education in 1936.
There were three coffins in the tomb. It is believed that the middle one belonged to Süleyman Shah, one of them to one of his sons and the other to a family member. The tomb was taken care of by a tomb keepe, and soldiers from Urfa and Akçakale stood guard at the outpost near the tomb, which was built in 1938. With its white walls, the building was the most glorious building of the area, once upon a time.
Qalat Jabar is situated 100 kilometers from the Turkish border on a hill over the left bank of the Euphrates. It is 50 kilometers from Raqqah and 110 kilometers from Aleppo. Although its original name was Davsara, it has been referred to as Qalat Jabar as an Arab commander named Jabar conquered it, and nomadic Turkmens inhabit the region. Although the castle has lost its strategic importance over time, it was once an important place and witnessed many historical events. Moreover, the Turkish Tomb used to be situated on the foothills of this castle.
When Syria declared its independence, Arab nationalist socialists wanted to erase the traces of the Ottoman Empire on their lands. Claiming that the tomb would be submerged due to the Tabqa Dam, whose construction began in 1966, they wanted the tomb to be moved to Turkey. In response, the tomb was relocated to the Karakozak village of Aleppo. The dam's construction was completed in 1973, but in 2006, the construction of Tishrin Dam again threatened the tomb. As a result, officials tried to avoid the threat by relocating it again and rebuilding the outpost. The tomb and its complex, which were spread over two-and-a-half acres, was then located 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, like an island in the dam's lake.
Due to the resent unrest and the civil war in Syria, the Tomb of Süleyman Shah was under threat by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), as they threatened Turkey they would tear it down along with the outpost. When Ankara said they would react harshly, Turkey was brought to the brink of war. Finally, on February 22, the tomb of the glorious ancestor was relocated for the third time even closer to the Turkish border in order to protect it and the soldiers in the outpost from terrorist activities in the region. Hence, the Turkish Tomb, which was the symbol of centuries-old Ottoman rule in the region that occasionally caused tension between the Turkish and Syrian governments, perished from history