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Exhuming Turkey's Past

Ottoman Revivalism, Then and Now

The Sultan Ahmet mosque in Istanbul during the Ottoman Empire. Abdullah frères / Wikimedia Commons

On the morning of February 22, over 500 Turkish soldiers drove into Syria to extract the remains of Suleyman Shah—grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire—from a small mausoleum on the banks of the Euphrates River. Though Suleyman Shah was never terribly famous or important as far as Ottoman ancestors go, the tomb was part of Turkey according to a 1921 treaty, and its guards were technically on Turkish soil. Since both had been surrounded for months by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that withdrawing the remains and their guards was a means to protect national honor. “Countries which do not look after their historic symbols cannot build their future,” he said. The opposition, meanwhile, was quick to accuse the government of sacrificing Turkish territory for the first time in nearly a century.

This incursion into Syria

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