By Dr Jan Best de Vries:
During the Ottoman Empire the now allegedly Turkish province of Hatay formed part of the Vilayet of Aleppo and on the basis of geography rightly so (just have a look on the map of West Asia). Now that Salafist Turkey, after the failed coup by remaining secular parts of its army, is expanding again its territory into Syria by shelling with its artillery the area of Jarabulus and Manbij in order to occupy both cities with their surrounding villages, it is time to call to mind its earlier annexation of Hatay.
Hatay remained a part of the French protectorate Syria till the French after a fake referendum cowardly handed Hatay over to Turkey in 1939 in the hope that the latter state would choose against Nazi Germany. It should be clearly stated that the Republic of Syria still considers Hatay to be de jure a part of the Republic of Syria.
On Syria we should quote a more obedient prime minister of Mr Erdogan than his predecessor Mr Davutoglu: “On Saturday, PM Yildirim told the media that Ankara is ready to accept that Syrian President Bashar Assad may be part of a transitional period in the country, but still insisted that he has no place in Syria’s future.” (Tru News, August 23, 2016). And Qatar News Agency on August 20, 2016 had this as its headline: “Yildirim: Turkey Will Not Let Syria Be Divided Along Ethnic And Sectarian Lines”. Concerning the composition of Rojava’s population along ethnic and sectarian lines Yildirim has nothing to fear, for this is nearly the same at that in Hatay during the French census of 1936, before the massive importation of Turks after 1939. In 1936 the population of Hatay consisted of Shiite Arabic-speaking Alawites, Sunni Arabs, Christians of different churches (Melkite, Catholic and Armenian), Turkmen, Turks, Armenians, Circassians, Jews and Kurds. After the Turkish take-over, most Armenian and Arabic Christians as well as Arabic Sunnites were chased away from their lands and deported to Syria. From 1939 onwards Turkification, like that in the new state of Turkey since 1923, was the only steady and stable state policy. Nowadays Turkey and Hatay are divided into Turks and non-Turks along ethnic lines and into Turkish Salafist Sunni Muslims and suppressed religious minorities (like Shiite Alawites and Christian Armenians). Rojava, by contrast, is not divided along ethnic and sectarian lines and hopefully it never will be.
Syria is no real matter of concern to Mr Erdogan, but Turkey certainly is for both the present Syrian regime and for the administration of Rojava in Syria. If Rojava would include Hatay for Syria again, this would in the future form the safest buffer zone for Syria’s territorial integrity against the new territorial claims of Turkey on Jarabulus and Manbij. How paradoxical this may seem at the moment to both Americans and Russians.
Between 1700 and 1630 BC, under King Yarimlim, Aleppo was the capital of his realm, Yamchad (present-day North-Syria) while Alalakh (Tell Atchana in Hatay), under his vassal Ammitaku, was Aleppo’s outlet to the Mediterranean before the Hittites, coming from Anatolia, conquered both cities. May Aleppo, Hatay and Rojava once again bloom for Syria!
Dr. Jan Best de Vries is an archaeologist and historian, decipherer of the so-called Byblos Script from Aleppo and Alalakh (‘How to Decipher the Byblos Script’, Aspekt Publishers 2014, ISBN978-946-153-420-0)