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Hatay Cumhuriyeti
لواء الإسكندرونة
Hatay State



İstiklâl Marşı
Sanjak of Alexandretta/Hatay State (blue) in the Mandate of Syria.
Capital Antakya (Antioch)
Language(s) Turkish, 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 lira, Syrian pound

Hatay State (Turkish: Hatay Devleti, Arabic: لواء الإسكندرونة‎), also known informally as the Republic of Hatay, was a transitional political entity that formally 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 annexed by the Republic of Turkey on June 29, 1939 and transformed into the Hatay Province (excluding districts of Erzin, Dörtyol, Hassa) of Turkey.





Formerly part of the Halab province 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 Sandjak of Alexandretta was an autonomous sandjak (department) 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, Kurdish 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 15 March 1923 in Adana, claimed, probably in projection to the Turkish Historical Thesis, that it was "a Turkish homeland for forty centuries" that "can’t be a captive at the hands of enemy"[2]. 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.

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. Following this, and an intervention of the League of Nations, a new statute came into power in November 1937, the sandjak becoming 'distinct but not separated' from Syria on the diplomatic level, linked to both France and Turkey for defence matters.[1]

In 1936 Atatürk coined the name Hatay for the Sanjak of Alexandretta, and raised the issue of Hatay (Turkish: Hatay meselesi) at the League of Nations. On behalf of the League of Nations, representatives of France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey prepared a constitution for Hatay which established it as an autonomous sanjak within Syria. Despite some inter-ethnic violence, in the midst of 1938 an election to the local legislative assembly was conducted and it was convoked.

1938 elections

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 Tcherkesses/Circassians, all of which were considered as Turks by Ankara.[1]

According to the official ethnic census on July 22, 1938, there were 57,008 voters in the Sanjak, belonging to the following ethnic groups:[3]

The parliament was not divided among party lines but along those of ethnicity. The 40 seats of the parliament were distributed as follows:

  • Antakya: 14 Turks, 7 Arab Alawis, 2 Armenians, 2 Sunni Arabs, 1 Arab Orthodox Christian
  • İskenderun: 3 Turks, 2 Arab Alawis, 1 Armenian, 1 Arab Orthodox Christian
  • Kırıkhan: 5 Turks, 2 Armenians
  • Total: 22 Turks, 9 Arab Alawis, 5 Armenians, 2 Sunni Arabs, 2 Arab Orthodox Christians

Proclamation of independence

On September 6, 1938 the constitution was adopted. It resembled strongly 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 four districts (Antakya, İskenderun, Ordu (Yayladağı), Kırıkhan and 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.

In popular culture

Fictional flag of Hatay

The Republic 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.


  1. ^ a b c Picard, Elizabeth (january-february-march 1982). "Retour au Sandjak" (in French). Maghreb-Machrek (Paris) (99).  
  2. ^ History of Hatay (In Turkish)
  3. ^ Bazantay, Pierre (in French). Un conflit de nationalités au Proche-Orient : le sandjak d’Alexandrette 1934-1939.  


  • 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


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