Hatay is a predominantly Arab province where there are a number of members of the Nusayri (Alawite) sect to which the Assad family in Syria subscribes. In addition, Hatay is historically a matter of dispute between Syria and Turkey. When the republic was created, Hatay was not included within the borders of the new country. In 1937, an independent state was established by a referendum under the French administration; subsequently, this state joined Turkey. Syria still claims its right to Hatay, which is cited as a Syrian province on maps used in that country. This dispute had become less significant for the first time when relations between Turkey and Syria improved. But as the tension rose, this problem became more visible.
The Turkish government lost the initiative on Syrian policy. It failed to recognize that the issue would become this complicated. This failure gave Syria an opportunity to make a countermove. Recent developments and indicators show that the Syrian administration has initiated a wholesale and systematic campaign of defense. The Mukhabarat knows Turkey well. Those who have protected and sponsored marginal left groups and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism for many years are now mobilizing their final network. The recent sectarian provocations and attempts by prominent centers in Turkey to defend the Syrian regime are major signs of this. Robert Fisk from The Independent reported the story of a jihadist from Turkey after meeting him in a military prison under the surveillance of the Syrian state. It is possible to make an inference based on this story and the relevant material. A Turkish citizen who is arrested at the funeral of his mother-in-law does not look like a rebel who is part of an organized armed group.
The demonstration held with the participation of 3,000 people in Hatay where the demonstrators expressed support for the Syrian regime gives insights and clues into the might and capacity of the Mukhabarat. Only marginal leftist groups attended the rally. The slogan chanted at the rally, “We are protecting you Bashar with our blood and lives,” is enough to see that the Mukhabarat organized this event. The detail that the Hatay governor draws attention to is important. The only answer on the refugee camps to the question “Why Hatay?” is relevant not only to what is happening in these camps but also to the ethnic fabric of the province.
So was the Syrian state successful? These demonstrations held with the limited participation of marginal left groups and the controversial reactions by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) show that it was not. It is acknowledged that 28,000 people have died in the civil war in Syria over the last one-and-a-half years; 200,000 internally displaced persons and people under arrest, as well as a growing number of refugees in foreign countries, including Turkey, demonstrate that the war has been lost inside. It is not possible for Syria to survive by marching down this bloody road. The question now is: How many more people will die? It is impossible for an administration that kills its own people systematically to rebuild a stable administration and rule again.
The secret service operations that the Syrian state has been carrying out in Hatay are impressive but not successful because these operations will not preserve the Assad regime.