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Province of Turkey
Location of Hatay Province in Turkey
Largest City İskenderun
Total 5,403 km2 (2,086 sq mi)
Density 270/km2 (710/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. 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, a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of Mersin, Adana, Osmaniye, and Hatay. The administrative capital is Antakya (Antioch), and the other major 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.
Main article: Antioch
Settled since the early Bronze Age, Hatay was once of the Akkadian Empire, then the Amorite Kingdom of Yamhad and Mitannis, then a succession of Hittites, the Neo-Hittite "Hattena" people that later gave the modern province of Hatay its name, then the Assyrians (except a brief occupation by Urartu) and Persians. The region was the center of the Hellenistic 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 of the Roman Empire.
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 after a brief rule of Akşitler. In 969 the city of Antioch was recaptured by the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by Philaretos Brachamios, a Byzantine general in 1078. He was Armenian and founded a principality from Antioch to Edessa. It was captured by Suleiman I, who was Sultan of Rum (ruler of Anatolian Seljuks), in 1084. It passed to Tutush I, Sultan of Aleppo (ruler of Syria Seljuks), in 1086. Seljuk rule lasted 14 years until Hatay's capture by the Crusaders in 1098, when it became the centre of the Principality of Antioch. Hatay was captured from the Crusaders by the Mameluks in 1268.
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 2 km² of land between the Orontes River and Mount Habib Neccar. Under the Ottomans the area was known as the sanjak (or governorate) of Alexandretta. 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 (Alexandretta) was majority Arab with smaller communities of Armenians and Turks.
Ethnic groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor, early 20th Century, Historical Atlas, 1911
Many consider that Alexandretta had been traditionally part of Syria. Maps as far back as 1764 confirm this. After World War I and the Turkish Independence War the Ottoman Empire was disbanded and modern Turkey was created, and Alexandretta was not part of the new republic, it was put within the French mandate of Syria after a signed agreement between the Allies and Turkey, the Treaty of Sèvres, which was neither ratified by the Ottoman Parliament nor by the Turkish National Movement in Ankara. The subsequent Treaty of Lausanne also put Alexandretta within Syria. 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 US Department of State. 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, Greek Orthodox); Greek Catholics, Syriac-Maronites; Jews; Syriacs; 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.
Turkish borders according to the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923
Despite this, a Turkish community remained in Alexandretta and Atatürk claimed that Hatay had been a Turkish homeland for 40 centuries. This was due to the "sun-theory" of language prevalent in 1930s in Turkey, which presumed that some ancient people of Anatolia and the Middle East such as the Sumerians and Hittites were related to the Turks. Accordingly, some original inhabitants of Southern Turkey including those surrounding Antakya were of Hittite ancestry, hence the name Hatay (this is close to the French pronunciation). Resident Arabs organised under the banner or 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 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 concerning alleged mistreatment of the 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.
In 1938, the Turkish military went into the Syrian province and expelled most of its Arab and Armenian inhabitants. Before this, Alawi Arabs and Armenians composed an overwhelming majority of the province's population, with Arabs representing about two thirds of the population.
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 4 July 1938.
Republic of Hatay
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.
Hatay Province of Turkey
In 1939, following a popular referendum, Hatay became a Turkish province. This referendum has been labeled both "phoney" and "rigged", and a way for the French to let Turks take over the area, hoping that they would turn on Hitler. France eventually came to oppose Turkish control of Hatay. The French provided arms to groups opposed to Turkish control including Kurdish Hoybûn, Armenian Tashnak organizations, and Assyrians. They also tried to collaborate with Alawis and Circassians against Turks. On the other hand, the Turkish government, too, made efforts to collaborate with other ethnic groups, especially the Alawis, whom they considered part of the Turkish community in Hatay. Together with the Alawis, Turks constituted a majority of the population in Hatay. The Turkish government gained the support of the Alawis by arguing that their lives would be better in the Turkish Republic than in the French mandate of Syria. They promoted the example of Alawis living elsewehere in Turkey, especially in Adana. Turkish efforts to cooperate with Alawis bore fruit and some Alawis registered themselves as Turks for the elections. The Ankara government also collaborated with Circassians in Hatay, who were by then well integrated into Turkish society.
For the referendum, Turkey crossed tens of thousands of Turks into Alexandretta to vote. These were Turks born in Hatay who were now living elsewhere in Turkey. 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.
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 and Dörtyol district of Adana were then incorporated to the province in order to increase the Turkish proportion of the population. The result was a flight of many Arabs and Armenians to Syria.
In Ottoman times, Hatay was part of the Vilayet of Aleppo in Ottoman Syria. After World War I, Hatay (then known as Alexandretta) became part of the French Mandate of Syria. Unlike other regions historically[vague] belonging to Syrian provinces (such as Aintab, Kilis and Urfa), Alexandretta was confirmed as Syrian territory in the Treaty of Lausanne agreed upon by Kemal Atatürk; although it was granted a special autonomous status because it contained a large Turkish minority. However, 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 in 1939 this state, called the Republic of Hatay, was annexed to Turkey as the 63rd Turkish province following a controversial referendum. Syria bitterly disputed both the separation of Alexandretta and its subsequent annexation to Turkey.
Syria maintains 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. Syria continues to consider Hatay part of its territory, and shows it as such on its maps. However, Turkey and Syria have strengthened their ties and opened the border between the two countries.
Protests in Damascus by women demonstrators against Turkish annexation of the Sanjak of Alexandretta in 1939. 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.
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.
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 Syrians and Turks crossed the border to visit their brethren on the other side. In the wake of an agreement in the autumn of 2009 to lift visa requirements, nationals of both countries can travel freely. 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.
Baghras in Hatay
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.
Before the annexation of the province (known to the Arabs as Alexandretta) to Turkey, Arabs then constituted about two-thirds of the population of Hatay, and the province has remained predominantly Arab. The 1.5 million population of Hatay province is divided almost equally between Sunni Muslims and Alawi Muslims with an Arab Orthodox Christian minority. Hatay is home to Sunni Muslims, Alawi Muslims, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Maronites, Arab (Greek-Orthodox) 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 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. 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". Hatay is traversed by the northeasterly line of equal latitude and longitude.
Mustafa Kemal University is one of Turkey's newer tertiary institutions, founded in İskenderun and Antakya in 1992.
Hatay province is divided into 12 districts Altınözü, Antakya, Belen, Dörtyol, Erzin, Hassa, İskenderun, Kırıkhan, Kumlu, Reyhanlı, Samandağ and Yayladağı.
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 (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.
Tunnel of Vespasian, in Samandağı, built as a water channel in the 2nd century.
Mehmet Aksoy - sculptor (b. Antakya 1939 - ) 
Gökhan Zan - Galatasaray footballer, (b. Antakya 1981 )
Selçuk İnan - Trabzonspor footballer, (b. İskenderun 1985 )
Yasin Özdenak - Retired Galatasaray footballer, (b. İskenderun 1948 )
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 (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.