Hatay Province

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shows the Location of the Province Hatay
shows the Location of the Province Hatay
Flag of the "Republic of Hatay" (1938-1939)
Flag of the "Republic of Hatay" (1938-1939)

Hatay is a province of southern Turkey, situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and Syria to the south and east. Until 1938 it was a province of Syria and was known as Iskandarun Province; its annexation to Turkey in that year remained a cause of tension in relations between the two countries until recently, and Syrian maps still show it as Syrian territory.

Its capital is Antakya, formerly Antioch. Alexandretta is also located within the province, but is now known by its Turkish name, İskenderun. The province has an area of 5,545 km² (2,141 mi²) and a population of 1,253,726 in the 2000 census.


Sandjak of Alexandretta

Hatay was originally the sanjak (or governorate) of Alexandretta, part of the Ottoman Empire. Following the empire's demise after World War I, it became part of the French mandate of Syria.

The Sandjak of Alexandretta was an autonomous sanjak from 1921 to 1923, as a result of the French-Turkish treaty of 20 october 1921, considering the presence of an important Turkish community alongside with Arab (of various religious denominations: Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics, Maronites etc.), Kurdish and Armenian ones, plus some Jews, and Greeks. Then it was attached to the State of Aleppo, and in 1925 it was directly attached to the State of Syria, still with a special administrative status.

In 1936, the elections returned two Syrian independentist (favoring the independence of Syria from France) MP's in the sandjak, and this prompted communal riots as well as passionated articles in the Turkish and Syrian press. It then became the subject of a complaint to the League of Nations by the Turkish government under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk concerning alleged mistreatment of the area's Turkish populations. Atatürk demanded that it become part of Turkey, claiming that the majority of its inhabitants were Turks. The sanjak was given autonomy in november 1937 in an arrangement brokered by the League. Under its new statute, the sandjak became 'distinct but not separated' from Syria on the diplomatic level, linked to both France and Turkey for defence matters.

In 1938 there was an ethnic census by French authorities under international control, and the repartition of the seats in the sandjak assembly was based on it: out of 40 seats, 22 for the Turks, 9 for Alawi Arabs, 2 for Sunni Arabs, 2 for Christian Arabs, 5 for Armenians. However, the census results seem to be questionable because it happened just to determine the seats repartition, and Turkish propaganda was very active among Alawis, Kurds, and Circassians, all of which were considered as Turks by Ankara.

The assembly was elected in the summer of 1938 and the French-Turkish treaty settling the status of the Sandjak was signed on 4 july 1938. The election for the parliamentary seats was monitored by the Turkish Army and many Turks from the provinces Adana and Gaziantep were registered as voters.

Republic of Hatay

On 2 September 1938 the assembly proclaimed it the Republic of Hatay, taking as an excuse that rioting had broken out between Turks and Arabs. The Republic had a one year existence under joint French and Turkish military supervision. The name "Hatay" itself was proposed by Atatürk and the government was under Turkish control. The president Tayfur Sökmen was a member of Turkish parliament elected in 1935 (representing Antalya) and the prime minister Dr. Abdurrahman Melek was also elected to Turkish parliament (representing Gaziantep) in 1939 while still holding the prime-ministerial post.

Province of Hatay

In 1939, majority Turkish MPs voted for unification with Turkey, following which the former sanjak became a Turkish province. France's willingness to accede to Turkish demands was at least partly influenced by its government's wariness of getting involved in a potential overseas conflict while Germany posed a clear military threat on its immediate borders. Many Arabs and Armenians fled Hatay to other parts of Syria; in some cases, the Armenians were already refugees from the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915. Hassa district of Gaziantep and Dörtyol district of Adana were incorporated with the province in order to increase the rate of Turkish population.

Syria did not recognize the incorporation of Hatay within Turkey and the issue has been a source of some tension between the two countries until recently. As the WWII began just afterwards, the League of Nations didn't have time to give its opinion about this cession. However in early 2005, when the visits from Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Turkish prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened a way to discussions between two states, Syrian government announced it had no sovereignity issues concerning Hatay anymore.

Hatay figured in the Indiana Jones movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where it was portrayed as the final resting place of the Holy Grail.

The Turkish film Propaganda [1], realised in 1999 by Sinan Çetin, portrays the difficult materialisation of the Turkish-Syrian border in 1948, cutting through villages and families.

External links


fr Elizabeth Picard, 'Retour au Sandjak', Maghreb-Machrek (Paris) n°99, jan.-feb.-march 1982

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