Hatay Province

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Not to be confused with the former Hà Tây Province in Vietnam.
Hatay Province
Hatay ili
Province of Turkey
Location of Hatay Province in Turkey
Location of Hatay Province in Turkey
Country Turkey
Region Mediterranean
Subregion Hatay
 • Electoral district Hatay
 • Total 5,831.36 km2 (2,251.50 sq mi)
Population (2010-12-31)[1]
 • Total 1,480,571
 • Density 250/km2 (660/sq mi)
Area code(s) 0326
Vehicle registration 31

Hatay Province (Turkish: Hatay ili, pronounced [ˈhataj]) is a province in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean coast. The administrative capital is Antakya (Antioch) and the other major city in the province is the port city of İskenderun (Alexandretta). It is bordered by Syria to the south and east and the Turkish provinces of Adana and Osmaniye to the north. The province is part of Çukurova (Cilicia), a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye, and Hatay. There are border crossing points with Syria in the district of Yayladağı and at Cilvegözü in the district of Reyhanlı. Sovereignty over the province remains disputed with neighbouring Syria, which claims that the province was separated from itself against the stipulations of the French Mandate of Syria in the years following Syria's independence from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Although the two countries have remained generally peaceful in their dispute over the territory, Syria has never formally renounced its rights to it. Its provincial capital is the city of Hatay. The traffic code is 31.



The territory of Hatay was part of the Akkadian Empire in the Middle Bronze Age, followed by control of the Amorite Kingdom of Yamhad, Mitanni and the Hittite Empire. After the Bronze Age collapse, the Neo-Hittite 'Hattena polity was established, its name being the origin of modern Hatay. During the Iron Age, the area fell under the rule of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, intermittently occupied by Urartu, and of the Achaemenid Empire.

The area became part of the core region of Hellenistic Syria under the Seleucid empire, home to the four Greek cities of the Syrian tetrapolis, Antioch, Seleucia Pieria, Apamea and Laodicea. From 64 BC onwards the city of Antioch became an important regional centre within Roman Syria (later Provincia Syria Coele).

Middle Ages[edit]

After the fall of Antioch to the Rashidun Caliphate in 638, the area was under Muslim rule for more than three centuries, before it was intermittently recovered by the Byzantines in the 10th and 11th centuries. In 969 the city of Antioch was recaptured by the Byzantine Empire, while the region in general remained under the control of the Aleppo-based Hamdanids (after a brief rule of Ikhshidids). By 1045 only the city of Antioch remained Byzantine; in 1078, Byzantine general Philaretos Brachamios again extended Byzantine control to Edessa, but Antioch again fell to the Seljuks under Suleiman I in 1084. It passed to Tutush I, Sultan of Aleppo (ruler of Syria Seljuks), in 1086. Seljuk rule lasted 14 years, until 1098, when Antioch was re-conquered by forces of the First Crusade. Principality of Antioch. For the next 260 years, the area of Hatay was controlled by the Principality of Antioch. The Principality in the 12th century had about 20,000 inhabitants, mostly Armenians and Greeks, with a Norman elite mostly extracted from the Norman kingdom of Sicily. In 1268, the Principality of Antioch fell to the Mamluk Sultanate under Baibars. The region remained on the northern fringes of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt for the remainder of the medieval period, until the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Empire in 1516/7.

Ottoman rule[edit]

At the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1516/7 under Selim I, Hatay was separated from the Egypt Eyalet, at first as part of the Damascus Eyalet, and from 1534 in the Aleppo Eyalet, reorganized as the Aleppo Vilayet in 1864.

Ethnic groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor, early 20th Century, Historical Atlas, 1911

Gertrude Bell in Syria The Desert & the Sown (1907) wrote extensively about her travels across Syria including Antioch and Alexandretta, describing an amalgamate population of Turks and Arabs. A map published circa 1911 highlighted that the ethnic make up (Alexandretta) was majority Arab with smaller communities of Armenians and Turks.

French mandate of Syria[edit]

At the partition of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Hatay was as first separated from Aleppo as the Sanjak of Alexandretta, comprising two qadaas of the former Aleppo Vilayet, Alexandretta and Antioch, incorporated on November 27, 1918.[2] Alexandretta passed under the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon following the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920,[3] and it gained autonomy under Article 7 of the French-Turkish treaty of October 20, 1921.[4] The separate treatment of the region reflects its above-average ethnic heterogenity, combining a Turkish community with Arabs of various religious denominations, besides Syriac, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Maronite Christians, besides communities of Jews and Kurds.

In 1923, Aleyandretta was after all attached to the State of Aleppo under the Treaty of Lausanne. Aleppo was in turn incorporated into the State of Syria in 1924.[5]

Turkish borders according to the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923

The Republic of Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did not accept the incorporation of Hatay into Syria, claiming it as part of the "Turkish homeland". Meanwhile, the Arab population of Hatay organised under the banner of Arabism, and in 1930, Zaki Alarsuzi, a teacher and lawyer from Arsuz on the coast of Alexandretta published a newspaper called 'Arabism' in Antioch that was shut down by Turkish and French authorities.

The 1936 elections returned two MPs favouring the independence of Syria from France, and this prompted communal riots as well as passionate articles in the Turkish and Syrian press. This then became the subject of a complaint to the League of Nations by the Turkish government concerning alleged mistreatment of the Turkish populations. Atatürk demanded that Hatay become part of Turkey claiming that the majority of its inhabitants were Turks (Arabs actually outnumbered Turks 46% to 39%[6]).

The sanjak was given autonomy in November 1937 in an arrangement brokered by the League. Under its new statute, the sanjak became 'distinct but not separated' from the French mandate of Syria on the diplomatic level, linked to both France and Turkey for defence matters.

Turkish forces under Colonel Şükrü Kanatlı entered İskenderun on July 5, 1938.

On 2 September 1938, as the Second World War loomed over Europe, the assembly proclaimed the Republic of Hatay. The Republic lasted for one year 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 Abdurrahman Melek was also elected to the Turkish parliament (representing Gaziantep) in 1939 while still holding the prime-ministerial post.[citation needed]

Annexation by Turkey[edit]

Culminating a series of border disputes with France-mandated Syria, Atatürk obtained in 1937 an agreement with France recognizing Alexandretta as an independent state, and this state, called the Republic of Hatay, was annexed to Turkey as the 63rd Turkish province following a controversial referendum, on 29 June 1939.[7] Syria bitterly disputed both the separation of Alexandretta and its subsequent annexation to Turkey. Turkey made sure the result would turn out in its favour by trucking in tens of thousands of Turks into Alexandretta.[8] In two government communiqués in 1937 and 1938, the Turkish government asked all local government authorities to make lists of their employees originally from Hatay. Those who listed were then sent to Hatay to register as citizens and vote.[9] The new international border was demarcated by a Franco-Turkish commission during 1938/9.[10]

Syrian President Hashim al-Atassi resigned in protest at continued French intervention in Syrian affairs, maintaining that the French were obliged to refuse the annexation under the Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence of 1936.

The Hassa district of Gaziantep, Dörtyol district of Adana and Erzin were then incorporated to Hatay. As a result of the annexation, a number of demographic changes in Hatay. During ths six months following the annexation, inhabitants over the age of 18 were given the right to choose between staying and becoming Turkish citizens, or emigrate to and acquire citizenship of French mandated Syria or Greater Lebanon.

If choosing emigration, they were given 18 months to bring in their movable assets and establish themselves in their new states. Almost half of the Sunni Arabs left. Many Armenians also left and 1,068 Armenian families were relocated from the six Armenian villages of Musa Dagh to Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Many of the Armenians had been prior victims to the Armenian Genocide that had fled for their lives to the French Mandate of Syria. The total number of people who left for Syria is estimated at 50,000 including 22,000 Armenians, 10,000 Alawites, 10,000 Sunni Arabs and 5,000 Arab Christians.[11][12] The Turkish film Propaganda (1999) by Sinan Çetin portrays the difficult materialisation of the Turkish-Syrian border in 1948, cutting through villages and families.

Turkish–Syrian dispute[edit]

Further information: Syria–Turkey relations

Syria continued to maintain that the separation of Alexandretta violated France's mandatory responsibility to maintain the unity of Syrian lands (article 4 of the mandate charter). It also disputes the results of the referendum held in the province because, according to a League of Nations commission that registered voters in Alexandretta in 1938, Turkish voters in the province represented no more than 46% of the population.[13] Syria continued to consider Hatay part of its territory, and shows it as such on its maps.[14][15]

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."

Syrians hold the view that this land was illegally ceded to Turkey by France, the mandatory occupying power of Syria in the late 1930s. Syria still considers it an integral part of its own territory. Syrians call this land Liwa' aliskenderun (Arabic: لواء الاسكندرون‎) rather than the Turkish name of Hatay. Official Syrian maps still show Hatay as part of Syria.[14][15]

However, Turkey and Syria strengthened their ties and opened the border between the two countries during the early years of the 21st century. Under the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al Assad from 2000 onwards there was a lessening of tensions over the Hatay issue. Indeed, in early 2005, when visits from Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Turkish prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened a way to discussions between two states, it was claimed that the Syrian government announced it had no claims to sovereignty concerning Hatay any more. On the other hand, there has been no official announcement by the Syrians relinquishing their rights of sovereignty.

Following changes to Turkish land registry legislation in 2003 a large number of properties in Hatay were purchased by Syrian nationals, mostly people who had been residents of Hatay since the 1930s but had retained their Syrian citizenship and were buying the properties that they already occupied. By 2006 the amount of land owned by Syrian nationals in Hatay exceeded the legal limit for foreign ownership of 0.5%, and sale of lands to foreigners was prohibited.[16]

There has been a policy of cross border co-operation, on the social and economic level, between Turkey and Syria in the recent years. This allowed families divided by the border to freely visit each other during the festive periods of Christmas and Eid. In December 2007 up to 27,000 people crossed the border to visit their brethren on the other side.[17] In the wake of an agreement in the autumn of 2009 to lift visa requirements, nationals of both countries can travel freely.[18] However, out of 50 agreements signed between Turkey and Syria in December 2009, the Hatay dispute stalled a water agreement over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Turkey asked Syria to publicly recognize Hatay as a Turkish territory before signing on to the agreement.[19]

Apart from maps showing Hatay as Syrian territory, the Syrian policy has been to avoid discussing Hatay and giving evasive answers when asked to specify Syrian future goals and ambitions with regard to the area. This has included a complete media silence on the issue.[20] In February 2011 the dispute over Hatay was almost solved. The border separating Syria from Hatay was going to be blurred by a shared Friendship Dam on the Orontes river and as part of this project the two states had agreed on the national jurisdiction on each side of the border. Only weeks before the outbreak of the Syrian uprising and later war, groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Hatay and Idlib. As a result of the Syrian war and the extremely tense Turkish-Syrian relations it brought, construction was halted. As part of the ongoing war, the question of the sovereignty of Hatay has resurfaced in Syria and the Syrian media silence has been broken. Syrian media began broadcasting documentaries on the history of the area, the Turkish annexation and "Turkification" policies. Syrian newspapers have also reported on demonstrations in Hatay and on organizations and parties in Syria demanding an "end to the Turkish occupation".[21] However, although the Syrian regime has repeatedly criticized the Turkish policies towards Syria and the armed rebel groups operating on Syrian territory, it has not officially brought up the question of Hatay.[22]


Baghras in Hatay

Hatay is traversed by the north-easterly line of equal latitude and longitude. 46% of the land is mountain, 33% plain and 20% plateau and hillside. The most prominent feature is the north-south leading Nur Mountains and the highest peak is Mığırtepe (2240m), other peaks include Ziyaret dağı and Keldağ (Jebel Akra or Casius) at 1739 m. The folds of land that make up the landscape of the province were formed as the land masses of Arabian-Nubian Shield and Anatolia have pushed into each other, meeting here in Hatay, a classic example of the Horstgraben formation. The Orontes River rises in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and runs through Syria and Hatay, where it reserves the Karasu and the Afrin River. It flows into the Mediterranean at its delta in Samandağ. There was a lake in the plain of Amik but this was drained in the 1970s, and today Amik is now the largest of the plains and an important agricultural center. The climate is typical of the Mediterranean, with warm wet winters and hot, dry summers. The mountain areas inland are drier than the coast. There are some mineral deposits, İskenderun is home to Turkey's largest iron and steel plant, and the district of Yayladağı produces a colourful marble called Rose of Hatay.


Hatay has a Mediterranean climate which has very hot, long and dry summers with cool rainy winters.

Climate data for Hatay
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 12.3
Average low °C (°F) 4.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 172.7
Average rainy days 14.2 13.5 12.8 9.8 5.8 2.8 1.9 1.7 3.8 7.5 9.7 13.3 96.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 105.4 123.2 186 225 297.6 330 356.5 337.9 291 220.1 147 102.3 2,722
Source: Devlet Meteoroloji İşleri Genel Müdürlüğü [23]


The majority of population adheres to Islam, belonging to either Alawi branch of Shia Islam or Sunni Islam. But other minorities are also found, including Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Maronites, Antiochian Greeks and Armenian communities. The village of Vakıflı in the district of Samandağ is Turkey's last remaining rural Armenian community while Arabs form the majority in three districts out of the twelve: Samandağ (Suwaidiyyah) (Alawi), Altınözü (Qusair) and Reyhanlı (Rihaniyyah) (Sunni). Unlike most Mediterranean provinces, Hatay has not experienced mass migration from other parts of Turkey in recent decades and has therefore preserved much of its traditional culture; for example, Arabic is still widely spoken in the province.[24] To celebrate this cultural mix, in 2005 "Hatay Meeting of Civilisations" congress was organised by Dr Aydın Bozkurt of Mustafa Kemal University and his "Hatay Association for the Protection of Universal Values".[25]


Mustafa Kemal University is one of Turkey's newer tertiary institutions, founded in İskenderun and Antakya in 1992.


Until annexation, Turkish and Arabic were both spoken. After Ataturk's Reforms, however, the use of Arabic began to decline. Less than a generation ago, a child of an Arabic-speaking family would start school unable to speak Turkish; these days, most children of Arabic families start school unable to speak much, if any, Arabic. Some Arabic speakers will deny being "Arab", a term that can be derogatory in Turkey.[26]

Turkey's policies on language have focused on imposing homogeneity. The degree of imposition peaked in 1983, when the military government introduced a law prohibiting (to varying degrees) languages other than Turkish. For speakers of some languages (those not using a first official language of a country recognized by Turkey), the law forbade the use of those languages, even during private conversation (Rumpf, 1989). Although the law was repealed in 1991, the Constitution still prohibits any institution from teaching a language other than Turkish as a mother tongue (Article 42.9; provisions in international treaties are ostensibly upheld even today).[26]

85% of Arabs in Hatay believe that the use of Arabic is decreasing, however, 15% who hear it on a daily basis, disagree that such is happening in the region. The Arab Christian minority has the right to teach Arabic under the Treaty of Lausanne, however they tend to refrain from doing so in order to avoid sectarian tensions as the treaty does not apply to the Muslim majority.[26]


Hatay province was divided into 12 districts: Altınözü, Antakya, Belen, Dörtyol, Erzin, Hassa, İskenderun, Kırıkhan, Kumlu, Reyhanlı, Samandağ and Yayladağı.

In 2014, three more districts were created: Defne, Arsuz and Payas.


Hatay is warm enough to grow tropical crops, such as sweet potato and sugar cane, which are used in the local cuisine, along with other local specialities including a type of cucumber/squash called kitte. Well-known dishes of Hatay include the syrupy-pastry künefe, squash cooked in onions and tomato paste (sıhılmahsi), the aubergine and yoghurt paste (Baba ghanoush), and the chick-pea paste hummus as well as dishes such as kebab which are found throughout Turkey. In general the people of Hatay produce many spicy dishes including the walnut and spice paste muhammara), the spicy köfte called oruk, the thyme and parsley paste Za'atar and the spicy sun-dried cheese called Surke. Finally, syrup of pomegranate (nar ekşisi) is a popular salad dressing particular to this area.


  • World's second-largest collection of Roman mosaics in Antakya museum
  • Rock-carved Church of St Peter in Antakya, a site of Christian pilgrimage
  • Gündüz cinema, once parliament building of the Republic of Hatay
  • Titus Tunnel of Vespasian, in Samandağı, built as a water channel in the 2nd century

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Turkish Statistical Institute, MS Excel document – Population of province/district centers and towns/villages and population growth rate by provinces
  2. ^ Hatay tarihçesi
  3. ^ William M. Hale Turkish Foreign Policy, 1774-2000 p.45 Routledge, 2000 ISBN 0714650714, 9780714650715
  4. ^ Sarah D. Shields, Fezzes in the River: Identity Politics and European Diplomacy in the Middle East on the Eve of World War II, 2011
  5. ^ Syria–Turkey Boundary, International Boundary Study No. 163, The Geographer Office of the Geographer Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State (7 March 1978).
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Jack Kalpakian (2004). Identity, Conflict and Cooperation in International River Systems (Hardcover ed.). Ashgate Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 0-7546-3338-1.  Robert Fisk (19 March 2007). "Robert Fisk: US power games in the Middle East". The Independent. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Robert Fisk (2006). The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 335. ISBN 1-4000-7517-3. 
  9. ^ Çağatay, Soner. Islam, Secularism, and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who is a Turk? Volume 4 of Routledge studies in Middle Eastern history. Taylor & Francis, 2006, pp. 119-120. ISBN 0-415-38458-3, ISBN 978-0-415-38458-2
  10. ^ Hatay-Suriye Hududu (Hatay-Syria Boundary), April 15, 1939. Published by Turkey in 1942, seven sheets; scale 1:50,000. See Syria–Turkey Boundary, International Boundary Study No. 163, The Geographer Office of the Geographer Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State (7 March 1978), pp. 12–13.
  11. ^ Emma Jorum (2014). Beyond Syria's Borders: A History of Territorial Disputes in the Middle East. I.B. Tauris. pp. 92, 93. 
  12. ^ "ARMENIA AND KARABAGH" (PDF). Minority Rights Group. 1991. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Arnold Twinby, 1938 Survey of International Affairs p. 484
  14. ^ a b parliament.gov.sy - معلومات عن الجمهورية العربية السورية
  15. ^ a b "The Alexandretta Dispute", American Journal of International Law
  16. ^ Hürriyet - Hatay'da yabancılara gayrimenkul satışı durduruldu
  17. ^ [1][2]
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ PM vows to build model partnership with Syria Today's Zaman 23 December 2010
  20. ^ Lundgren Jörum, Emma: "The Importance of the Unimportant" in Hinnebusch, Raymond & Tür, Özlem: Turkey-Syria Relations: Between Enmity and Amity (Farnham: Ashgate), p 114-122.
  21. ^ http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=54340
  22. ^ Lundgren Jörum, Emma: Beyond Syria's Borders: A history of territorial disputes in the Middle East (London & New Yor: I.B. Tauris), p 108
  23. ^ http://www.dmi.gov.tr/veridegerlendirme/il-ve-ilceler-istatistik.aspx?m=HATAY
  24. ^ Radikal-çevrimiçi / Türkiye / Samandağ'da 'Alluş'la dans
  25. ^ Spiritual leaders speak up in Hatay for global peace - Turkish Daily News Sep 27, 2005
  26. ^ a b c http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/for-reasons-out-our-hands-a-community-identifies-causes-language-shift
  • fr Elizabeth Picard, 'Retour au Sandjak', Maghreb-Machrek (Paris) n°99, jan.-feb.-March 1982
  • [5]

External links[edit]


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