Turkish soldiers put a wire fence around area after Turkish flag is raised on Feb. 22, 2015 in the Esme region of Aleppo where the Tomb of Suleyman Shah will be placed.
Firat Yurdakul—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
By Olivier Laurent
February 24, 2015

Seventy years ago, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the historic photograph of five U.S. Marines and a Navy officer raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. The photograph marked a decisive, but not ultimate, victory for the U.S. during World War II, and was printed across the front pages of hundreds of newspapers in America.

On Feb. 22, 2015—just before the iconic photograph’s anniversary—a group of Turkish soldiers were portrayed in a similar ceremonial setup, this time in Syria.

Earlier that day, the Turkish army had launched a military operation 20 miles into its neighboring country to the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, Osman I. The area around the tomb has been controlled by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and soldiers tasked with guarding it have been trapped there for months. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised news conference that the mission aimed to evacuate the soldiers and relocate the remains; the tomb was then destroyed.

With the new tomb situated in Turkish-controlled territory just 600 ft. inside Syria, journalists and photographers were invited to document the historic groundbreaking. “It was an embedded operation,” says Firat Yurdakul of the Anadolu photo agency. “On the day, we had no idea where we were going. As we were waiting at the border, Turkish soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles entered Syria.”

Once the area was secured, bulldozers started working on the new tomb. They were followed by a group of soldiers carrying a flagpole, which they quickly raised on the new historic site in front of Yurdakul’s camera. “I [don’t] think the soldiers were posing for a photo,” he tells TIME. “The Turkish flag has an important meaning in [our] society, thus they were trying to do that ritual as honorably as they [could].”

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, on Feb. 23, 1945.
Joe Rosenthal—AP

Naturally, Yurdakul admits that his photo resembles Rosenthal’s icon. “Without any doubt, young photojournalists like [myself] have common references—Joe Rosenthal is one of them. I thought about Rosenthal’s picture as I was taking [this] photo,” but, he assures, it was “completely spontaneous.”

With additional reporting by Mikko Takkunen

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