Hatay State

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For the modern Turkish province, see Hatay Province.
Hatay State
Hatay Devleti
État du Hatay
دولة خطاي



İstiklâl Marşı
The sanjak of Alexandretta / Hatay State (peach, top left)
within the Mandate of Syria.
Capital Antakya
Languages Turkish (official)
French (second)
Levantine Arabic
Government Republic
Head of State Tayfur Sökmen
Prime Minister Abdurrahman Melek
Historical era Interwar period
 •  Independence September 7, 1938
 •  Union with Turkey June 29, 1939
 •  1938 4,700 km² (1,815 sq mi)
 •  1938 est. 234,379 
     Density 49.9 /km²  (129.2 /sq mi)
Currency Turkish liraa
a. Preceded by the Syrian pound.

Hatay State (Turkish: Hatay Devleti, French: État du Hatay, Arabic: دولة خطايDawlat Khaṭāy), also known informally as the Republic of Hatay, was a transitional political entity that existed from September 7, 1938, to June 29, 1939, in the territory of the Sanjak of Alexandretta of the French Mandate of Syria. The state was transformed de jure into the Hatay Province on July 7, 1939, and joined Turkey de facto on July 23, 1939. Hatay Province includes districts of Erzin, Dörtyol and Hassa in addition to former Hatay State territories.



Formerly part of the Aleppo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire, the Sanjak of Alexandretta was occupied by France at the end of World War I and constituted part of the French Mandate of Syria.

The Sanjak of Alexandretta was an autonomous sanjak from 1921 to 1923, as a result of the French-Turkish treaty of October 20, 1921, considering the presence of an important Turkish community along with Arab and Armenian ones. Then it was attached to the State of Aleppo, then in 1925 it was directly attached to the State of Syria, still with a special administrative status.[1]

Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk refused to accept the Sanjak of Alexandretta to be part of the Mandate and, in a speech on March 15, 1923 in Adana, claimed, in conformity to the Turkish History Thesis, that it was "a Turkish homeland for 40 centuries" and that "can't be a captive at the hands of enemy".[2] In truth, the Turks first appeared in Anatolia during the 11th century when the Seljuk Turks occupied the eastern province of the Abbasid Empire and captured Baghdad.[3] Turkish politics aimed at incorporating the Sanjak of Alexandretta when the French mandate of Syria would expire in 1935. Local Turks initiated reforms in the style of Atatürk's, formed various organisations and institutions in order to promote the idea of union with Turkey.

The telegram of congratulation sent by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after the proclamation of Hatay State.

In 1936, the elections returned two Syrian independentist MPs (favoring the independence of Syria from France) in the sanjak, and this prompted communal riots and passionate articles in the Turkish and Syrian press. In particular, Arab nationalist Zaki al-Arsuzi was influential in anti-irredentist agitation.

In response, Atatürk government coined the name Hatay for the Sanjak of Alexandretta, as a reference to Hittites (Syro-Hittite states), and raised the "Issue of Hatay" (Turkish: Hatay Meselesi) at the League of Nations. On behalf of the League of Nations, representatives of France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey prepared a constitution for the sanjak. The new statute came into power in November 1937, the Sanjak becoming 'distinct but not separated' from Syria on the diplomatic level, linked to both France and Turkey for defense matters.[1]

Protests in Damascus in 1939 by women demonstrators against the secession of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, and its subsequent joining into Turkey as the Hatay Province. One of the signs reads: "Our blood is sacrificed for the Syrian Arab Sanjak."

Proclamation of independence[edit]

After an ethnic-based voter registration under French and Turkish authorities completed on July 22, 1938, a Sanjak assembly was commissioned. On September 6, 1938, the constitution was adopted by the Sanjak assembly. The constitution strongly resembled the constitution created by the League of Nations for the Sanjak of Alexandretta. The constitution defined the territory as an independent state called "Hatay Devleti" (Hatay State), divided into Antakya and four districts (İskenderun, Ordu (Yayladağı), Kırıkhan, Reyhaniye (Reyhanlı). Turkish was declared the state language, while French retained a status as a secondary language. Schools teaching Arabic could continue to do so.

On September 7, 1938, the Hatay adopted a flag sketched by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. On February 6, 1939, the Hatay legislative adopted all Turkish laws, and on March 13, 1939, made the Turkish lira the official currency.


On June 29, 1939, the Hatay legislature voted on disestablishing the Hatay State and joining Turkey. On July 7, 1939, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey approved the law establishing the Hatay Province and incorporating districts from Adana Province (then Seyhan Province) and Gaziantep Province. By July 23, 1939, the last vestiges of the French Mandate authorities had left Antakya, and the territory was fully annexed to Turkey.[4]

Population and demographics[edit]

According to the estimates of the French high commission in 1936, out of a population of 220,000 39% were Turks, 28% Arabic-speaking Alawites, 11% Armenians, 10% Sunni Arabs, 8% other Christians and 4% were Circassians, Kurds and Jews. Although Turks formed the largest single ethno-religious minority, Arabic speakers including Sunnis, Alawites and Christians were more numerous.[5]

Ethnic composition of Hatay (1936)
Population of Hatay State in 1936 according to the French census[5]
Ethnic group Inhabitants  %
Alawis 61,600 28%
Sunni Arabs 22,000 10%
Melkites and other Christians 17,600 8%
Turks 85,800 39%
Armenians 24,200 11%
Circassians, Jews, Kurds 8,800 4%
Total 220,000 100%

In popular culture[edit]

Fictional flag of Hatay.

The State of Hatay was featured as one of the main locations in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the film, the Holy Grail is discovered in an ancient temple within Hatay, although the location used for the external shots of the temple is the Treasury of the ancient city of Petra, actually located in Jordan.

Aside from the name and location, most of the detail of Hatay within the movie is fictionalised - the flag is incorrect, and the state is shown as a monarchy with a sultan.[6]


  1. ^ a b Picard, Elizabeth (January–February-March 1982). "Retour au Sandjak". Maghreb-Machrek (in French) (Paris: Documentation française) (99).  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ "History of Hatay (In Turkish)". Antakyarehberi.com. Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  3. ^ Duiker & Spielvogel 2012, 192.
  4. ^ HATAY TARİHİ, Republic of Turkey Hatay Governorate
  5. ^ a b Brandell, Inga (2006). State Frontiers: Borders and Boundaries in the Middle East. I.B.Tauris. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-84511-076-5. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Boam, Jeffery. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - screenplay". Retrieved 27 October 2012. 


  • Sökmen, Tayfur: Hatay'ın Kurtuluşu İçin Harcanan Çabalar, Ankara 1992, ISBN 975-16-0499-0.

Coordinates: 36°25′49″N 36°10′27″E / 36.43028°N 36.17417°E / 36.43028; 36.17417