Hatay State
Hatay Devleti (Turkish)
État du Hatay (French)
دولة حطاي (Arabic)
Dawlat Ḥaṭāy
Flag of Hatay State
Anthem: İstiklâl Marşı
The sanjak of Alexandretta / Hatay State (peach, top left) within the Mandate of Syria.
The sanjak of Alexandretta / Hatay State (peach, top left)
within the Mandate of Syria.
CapitalAntakya (Antioch)
36°25′49″N 36°10′27″E / 36.43028°N 36.17417°E / 36.43028; 36.17417
Common languagesTurkish (official)
French (second)
Levantine Arabic
• 1938–1939
Tayfur Sökmen
Prime Minister 
• 1938–1939
Abdurrahman Melek
LegislatureHatay State People's Assembly
Historical eraInterwar period
• Independence
2 September 1938
• Union with Turkey
29 June 1939
CurrencyTurkish liraa
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Syrian Republic
Today part ofTurkey
  1. Preceded by the Syrian pound.

Hatay State (Turkish: Hatay Devleti; French: État du Hatay; Arabic: دولة حطاي, romanizedDawlat Ḥaṭāy), also known informally as the Republic of Hatay (Arabic: جمهورية حطاي, romanizedJumhūriyyat Ḥaṭāy), was a transitional political entity that existed from 7 September 1938 to 29 June 1939, being located in the territory of the Sanjak of Alexandretta of the French Mandate of Syria. The state was transformed de facto into the Hatay Province of Turkey on 7 July 1939, de jure joining the country on 23 July 1939.



Main article: Sanjak of Alexandretta

Formerly part of the Aleppo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire, the Sanjak of Alexandretta was occupied by France at the end of the First World War 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 Franco-Turkish Treaty of Ankara, as it had a large Turkish community as well as its Arab and Armenian population. 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]

Marshal Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later known as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk), refused to accept the Sanjak of Alexandretta as part of the Mandate and, in a speech on 15 March 1923 in Adana, he described the Sanjak as "A homeland where Turks lived for centuries and can't be a captive at the hands of enemy".[2] Turkish policy aimed at annexing the Sanjak of Alexandretta when the French mandate of Syria was due to expire in 1935. Turks in Alexandretta initiated reforms in the style of Atatürk's, and formed various organisations and institutions in order to promote the idea of union with the Republic of 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 (favouring 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 response, the 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 military 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."

On 2 September 1938, the sanjak assembly proclaimed the Sanjak of Alexandretta as the Hatay State. The State lasted for one year under joint French and Turkish military supervision.

On 29 June 1939, following a referendum, the Hatay legislature voted to disestablish the Hatay State and join Turkey. This referendum has been labelled both "phoney" and "rigged", as the Turkish government organised tens of thousands of Turks from outside Alexandretta to register as citizens and vote.[3] The French encouraged the annexation, hoping it would act as an incentive to Turkey to reject an alliance with Nazi Germany.[4]

Hashim al-Atassi, the President of the Syrian Republic, resigned in protest at the 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 Hatay State Peoples Assembly (Turkish: Hatay Devleti Millet Meclisi) consisted of 40 members, consisting of 22 Turks, nine Alawites, five Armenians, two Orthodox Greeks and two Sunni Arabs.


On 7 July 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 23 July 1939, the last vestiges of the French Mandate authorities had left Antakya, and the territory was fully annexed by Turkey. The result was a flight of many Arabs and Armenians to Syria. The region's Armenian population, having been survivors of the Armenian genocide, migrated to the French Mandate of Syria due to fears of Turkish prosecutions and therefore weren't able to contemplate Turkish sovereignty.[5] Following the annexation, almost the entire Armenian population of Hatay had settled in Aleppo, with many others moving to Lebanon where they founded the modern town of Anjar near the ruins of its historic castle.

Population and demographics

According to the estimates of the French High Commission in 1936, out of a population of 220,000, 39% were Turks, 28% Alawite Arabs, 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.[6]

Ethnic composition of Hatay (1936)
Population of Hatay State in 1936 according to the French census[6]
Ethnoreligious groups Inhabitants %
Alawite Arabs 61,600 28%
Sunni Arabs 22,000 10%
Melkites, Greeks 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 1937, most sources pointed that out of a total population of 186 thousand people (which is according to the French government's 1932 report) in sanjak of Alexandretta, 85 thousand people were Turks, 25 thousand were Armenians, and the rest was largely made up of Arabs with some Greeks, Jews, Kurds, and Circassians.[7]

In popular culture

A fictionalized Hatay, with its own potentate and army, is the setting for the climax of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

See also


  1. ^ a b Picard, Elizabeth (Spring 1982). "Retour au Sandjak". Maghreb-Machrek (in French) (99). Paris: Documentation française.
  2. ^ "History of Hatay (In Turkish)". Antakyarehberi.com. Archived from the original on 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
  3. ^ Robert Fisk (2007). The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (Paperback ed.). Vintage. p. 335. ISBN 978-1-4000-7517-1.
  4. ^ Jack Kalpakian (2004). Identity, Conflict and Cooperation in International River Systems (Hardcover ed.). Ashgate Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 0-7546-3338-1.
  5. ^ "ARMENIA AND KARABAGH" (PDF). Minority Rights Group. 1991. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ H. L (23 January 1937). "The Sanjak of Alexandretta". Bulletin of International News. 13 (15): 3–7. JSTOR 25639616. Retrieved 25 March 2022.


Media related to Hatay State at Wikimedia Commons