Hatay Province

Hatay Province

Infobox Province TR
total population= 1,386,224
licence = 31
area_code= 326|
Hatay is a province of southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast, with Syria to the south and east.


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 Horst-graben formation. The Orontes River rises in the Bekaa Valley in KLebanon and runs through Syria and Hatay and 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 that are important centres of agricultural production in Hatay. The climate of Hatay 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, Iskenderun is home to Turkey's largest iron and steel plant, and the district of Yayladağı produces a colourful marble called the "Rose of Hatay".

The administrative capital is Antakya (Antioch), while the largest city in the province is the port city of İskenderun (Alexandretta). There are border crossing points with Syria in the district of Yayladağı and at "Cilvegözü" in the district of Reyhanlı.

Hatay is one of the most cosmopolitan provinces of Turkey, home to communities of various races and religions including Turks, Arabs and Armenians, Sunni and Alevi Muslims and Christians of many demoninations. The village of "Vakıflıköy" 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 in Hatay: Samandağ ("Suwaidiyyah") (Alawi), Altınözü ("Qusair") and Reyhanlı ("Rihaniyyah") (Sunni). Unlike most Mediterranean provinces Hatay has not experienced mass immigration 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. [ [http://www.radikal.com.tr/haber.php?haberno=159475&tarih=23/07/2005 Radikal-çevrimiçi / Türkiye / Samandağ'da 'Alluş'la dans ] ] 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". [ [http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=24386 Spiritual leaders speak up in Hatay for global peace - Turkish Daily News Sep 27, 2005 ] ]

Hatay is warm enough to grow tropical crops such as sweet potato and sugar cane, and these 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 lots of 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 is a popular salad dressing particular to this area.

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


Hatay province is divided into 12 districts (capital district in bold):



See Antioch for the ancient history of this town and district. With its easy climate, fertile soil this crossing point between Syria and Anatolia is one of the longest-established areas in the region, settled since the early Bronze Age, once part of the Akkadian Empire, then the Amorite Kingdom of Yamhad, then a succession of Hittites, the late-Hittite “Hattena” people that later gave the modern province of Hatay its name, then Assyrians and Persians. The region was the center of the Hellenistic Seleucid empire, with the four Greek cities of the Syrian tetrapolis (Antioch, Seleucia Pieria, Apamea, and Laodicea). Later on, the city of Antioch became and important regional centre of the Roman Empire from 64BC onwards.

The arrival of Islam

The area was conquered by the armies of Islam in 638 and came under the control of the Ummayad and Abbasid Arab dynasties. Then following the first Turkish conquest by the Tolunoğulları tribe in 877 Hatay was controlled by various Turkish emirates, under the umbrella of the Seljuks and the Aleppo-based Hamdanoğulları. Then in 969 the city of Antioch played an important role in the First Crusade and was brought within the Byzantine Empire as a result. Eventually Hatay was captured from the Crusaders by the Mameluks.

History of Hatay: The Sanjak of Alexandretta

By the time it was taken from the Mameluks by the Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1516 Antakya was a medium-sized town on 2km² of land between the Orontes River and Mount Habib Neccar. Under the Ottomans the area was known as the sanjak (or governorate) of Alexandretta. The famous British female traveller Gertrude Bell in her book Syria The Desert & the Sown published in 1907 wrote extensively about her travels across Syria including Antioch & Alexandretta and she noted the heavy mix between Turks and Arabs in the region at that time. A map published circa 1911 highlighted that the ethnic make up of northern parts of the region (Alexandretta) was Turkish, while the southern parts (Antioch) were mostly made up of Arabs.

Many consider that Alexandretta had been traditionally part of the region of Syria. Maps as far back as 1764 confim this [http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/turkey/iskenderun/maps/roux_1764_pl_115.html] . After the WWI and the Turkish Independence War the Ottoman Empire was disbanded and modern Turkey was created, but Alexandretta was not part of the new republic, it was put within in the French mandate of Syria after a signed agreement between the Allies and Turkey Treaty of Sevres. The document detailing the boundary between Turkey and Syria around 1920 and subsequent years is presented in a report by the Official Geographer of The Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the USA's Department of State, which could be accessed via this link [http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/collection/LimitsinSeas/IBS163.pdf] .

Despite this, an important Turkish community remained in Alexandretta and the government of the newly-founded Turkish Republic were determined to protect these people, with Atatürk himself stating that "Hatay has been a Turkish homeland for 40 decades".

A French-Turkish treaty of 20 October 1921 rendered the Sanjak of Alexandretta autonomous, and remained so from 1921 to 1923. As well as Turks the population of the Sanjak included: Arabs of various religious denominations (Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Syriac Orthodox, Greek Orthodox); Greek Catholics, Maronites; Jews; Assyrians; Kurds; and Armenians. In 1923 Hatay was attached to the State of Aleppo, and in 1925 it was directly attached to the French mandate of Syria, still with special administrative status.

The 1936 elections in the sanjak returned two MPs favoring 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 under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk concerning alleged mistreatment of the area's Turkish populations. Atatürk demanded that Hatay 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 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.

The allocation of seats in the sanjak assembly was based on the 1938 census held by the French authorities under international supervision: out of 40 seats, 22 were given to the Turks and 18 for the Arabs and their Armenian allies (nine for Alawi Arabs, five for Armenians, two for Sunni Arabs, and two for Christian Arabs). The assembly was appointed in the summer of 1938 and the French-Turkish treaty settling the status of the Sanjak was signed on 4th July 1938. There is evidence that the results would have been different had the Turks not bused into the province a huge mumber of Turkish citizens and followed a pattern of discrimination against the other ethnic groups (Such as the infamous Musa Dagh battle [http://mousaler.com] 19 years earlier where Armenians where expelled by force). Musa Dagh was immortalised in the story of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.

Republic of Hatay

On 2 September 1938 as the Second World War loomed ever more ominously over Europe the assembly proclaimed the Republic of Hatay, taking as an excuse that rioting had broken out between Turks and Arabs.Fact|date=February 2007 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 (Greek: Αττάλεια)) and the prime minister Dr. Abdurrahman Melek, was also elected to the Turkish parliament (representing Gaziantep) in 1939 while still holding the prime-ministerial post. Fact|date=February 2007

Hatay Province of Turkey

Sökmen was to be the only president of the Republic of Hatay as in 1939, following a popular referendum it became a Turkish province. The Hassa district of Gaziantep and Dörtyol district of Adana were then incorporated to the province in order to increase the Turkish proportion of the population.Fact|date=February 2007 The result was a flight of many Arabs and Armenians from Hatay to other parts of Syria. 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.Fact|date=February 2007 As World War II began just afterwards, the League of Nations didn't have time to give its opinion about this cession.Fact|date=February 2007

Turkish-Syrian dispute over the Hatay Province

There is a deep rooted disagreement between Turkey and Syria over the Hatay Province.

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 "Liwaaa aliskenderuna" ( _ar. لواء الاسكندرون) rather than the Turkish name of Hatay.

The referendum which was organized in 1939 by the French-backed Republic of Hatay remains a cause of tension in relations between Turkey and Syria. The referendum has been labelled phoney by the journalist Robert Fisk [http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article2371575.ece] . Official Syrian maps still show Hatay as a part of Syria (e.g. [http://www.parliament.gov.sy/ar/syria.php] ). Historical details of this transfer of land from Syrian sovereignty to Turkish rule are given in "The Alexandretta Dispute" article published in the American Journal of International Law [http://www.jstor.org/view/00029300/di981657/98p0537c/0] .

The French decision to cede the province to Turkey influenced Syrian President Hashim al-Atassi to resign 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. However, under the leadership of Syrian Presdident Bashar al Assad from 2000 onwards there was a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Syria 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. [http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/586] . 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 in fact had been residents of Hatay since the 1930s but had retained their Syrian citizenship and were in fact 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. [ [http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/4558885.asp?m=1&gid=69 Hürriyet - Hatay'da yabancılara gayrimenkul satışı durduruldu ] ] (see Foreign purchases of real estate in Turkey for more details}.

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 related families divided by the winded border to freely visit each other during the festive periods of Christmas and Eid. In December 2007 up to 27'000 Syrians and Turks crossed to border to visit their brethren on the other side. [http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=208044] [http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=15361]

Places of interest

With its hilly countryside and a number of places of historical and religious interest Hatay is attractive to visitors. There are a number of music and folklore festivals held in the province each year. Particular sites of interest include:
* the world's second-largest collection of Roman mosaics in Antakya museum
* the rock-carved Church of St Peter in Antakya, a site of Christian pilgrimage.
* Gündüz cinema, once used as parliament building of the Republic of Hatay.
* The tunnel of Vespasian, in Samandağı, built as a water channel in the 2nd century.

Notable residents

* Mehmet Aksoy - sculptor (b. Hatay 1939 - ) [http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=101239]
* Semir Aslanyürek - film director (b. Antakya 1956 - )
* Hamdi Alkan - the actor and TV comedian known as Reyting Hamdi
* Selami Şahin - singer, (b. Yayladağı 1948 - )
* Gökhan Güney - Arabesque singer
* Gökhan Zan - Beşiktaş footballer, (b. Hatay )

Hatay in popular culture

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 in the "canyon of the crescent moon" outside of Alexandretta. In the movie, the Nazis offer the "sultan of Hatay" precious valuables to compensate for removing the Grail from his borders. He ignores the valuables, but accepts their Rolls-Royce Phantom II.

The Turkish film "Propaganda" [http://www.febiofest.cz/11_en/detail_filmu.php?filmid=2004336] , realised in 1999 by Sinan Çetin, portrays the difficult materialisation of the Turkish-Syrian border in 1948, cutting through villages and families.

The 2001 film "Şelale" by local director Semir Aslanyürek was filmed in Hatay.


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


External links

* [http://antakyam.net/ pictures Photo Galery]
* [http://www.hatay.gov.tr/ the provincial governor's website]
* [http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/Antakya Pictures of Antakya]
* [http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/antakya_museum Pictures of Antakya Museum]
* [http://www.hatayportal.org/galeri/ Pictures of Hatay]
* [http://www.hataygazetesi.com/ the local newspaper]
* [http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/tr-hatay.html Flag and info of the Republic of Hatay]
* [http://www.mku.edu.tr/ Mustafa Kemal University]
* [http://www.turkeyforecast.com/weather/hatay/ Hatay Weather Forecast Information]
* [http://www.asyaradyo.com Hatay Radios Station]
* [http://www.antakya.tv/ Tourist Information and pictures about Hatay/Antakya with Webcams and weather information]
* [http://www.hatayradyosu.com Hatay Radio Station]

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