Across the Middle East, from the Morocco through Iran, nearly every country has border disputes with its neighbors (Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan being prominent exceptions). Syria recognizes Lebanon only grudgingly, and the border between Syria and Turkey has been a long if often dormant dispute. The Syria crisis may soon end the dispute’s dormancy, however. The disagreement between Syria and Turkey centers on Hatay, a province in Turkey which extends down the Mediterranean coast and abuts Syria. In the early twentieth century, maps depicted the area (previously known as the Sanjak of Alexandretta), as part of Syria.
In the wake of World War I, Turkey complained about Hatay’s inclusion in Syria, protesting that the Arab government was violating the rights of the Turkish minority. In 1937, the League of Nations granted Hatay autonomy. The following year, against the backdrop of heavy Turkish police presence, Hatay declared its independence. Its legislature used its power to bring Hatay’s laws into conformity with Turkey’s, adopt the Turkish currency and, on July 23, 1939, Turkey formally annexed Hatay.