Syria / French Mandate
Sanjak of Alexandretta
French: Sandjak d'Alexandrette
In southern coastal Turkey, state under French control 1921-1923, as defined by the League of Nations. In the period 1923-1938 it was part of Syria, becoming Turkish territory in 1939.
Scene from Alexandretta, now Iskenderun.
Armenian refugees from Turkey, briefly find a safe heaven in Alexandretta before being expulled a second time with the Turkish takeover.
For slightly less than 7 months, it formed an independent republic, from late 1938 until middle 1939.
The region is about 4,700 km², and had in the early 1920's about 100,000 inhabitants. At the end of the 1930's, the population had increased to around 235,000.
The state was largely defined to a region largely inhabited by Arabic-speaking Alawites counting around 50%, Turkish Sunni Muslims around 30% and Armenian Christians around 20%.
The two main cities were Alexandretta (Iskenderun) and Antioch (Antakya).
As the region became Turkish without Syrian accept, it remains an issue of tension between Turkey and Syria. In Syria, official maps have it included as national territory. Today, there are about 200,000 Arabic-speaking Alawis living here, representing the poorest part of the population.
"Sanjak" is a Turkish term, used for territorial divisions in the Ottoman Empire.
1921 October 20: Is defined as an autonomous region under French control, according to an agreement between France and Turkey.
1923: Becomes part of the Aleppo State.
1925: As Aleppo State becomes part of the state of Syria, Alexandretta follows.
1936: Alexandretta is separated from Syria, placed under direct French command. Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) of Turkey makes demands that Alexandretta becomes Turkish. Turkey sends large groups of Turks into the region, aiming at them becoming the majority of the population.
1937 November: Alexandretta is given autonomy, formally shared between France and Turkey. At this point, Turks count about 47%.
1938: Invaded by the Turkish army.
September 2: The sanjak assembly is set down, Turks get 22 of 40 seats, reflecing that Turks now count for more than 50% of the population. The assembly declares independence under the name Republic of Hatay, but French and Turkish military remain in the territory.
1939 June 23: A popular referendum accepts that Hatay becomes a Turkish province. The French accepted this, facing trouble in Europe, they went for a possible alliance with Turkey. Most of the Arab and Armenian inhabitants are expelled.