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On its 74th usurpation anniversary, Liwa Iskenderun will remain Syrian forever

Despite the elapse of 74 years after the usurpation of Liwa Iskenderun from its motherland Syria by Turkey, it still lives in the hearts and minds of all Syrians as an occupied Arab land which will inevitably return to its legitimate owners.

The countries which are claiming that they are friends of Syrian people and keen on democracy, human rights and UN resolutions, France and Britain agreed to give Iskenderun as a bribe to Turkey in return that the latter will support them in the World War II and guarantee their colonialist interests in the region. The move was a grave precedent as it is a flagrant violation of international law and conventions. The League of Nations refused to pass the illegal usurpation and annexation of Iskenderun. So, the French British Turkish decision remained illegitimate and was not ratified by any international body. Internationally, the Liwa is still an independent region which follows Syria in its external affairs and linked to it in the currency, customs and mail. The UN which replaced the League of Nations after World War II didn't recognize all the procedures and the demographic and geographic changes made by France and Turkey to change the status of the Liwa to wipe out its genuine Arab identity.

The Liwa came under the French occupation in implementation of the notorious Sykes-Picot Accord signed between France and Britain in 1916 dividing Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq among themselves as if they were their inheritance. Following the signing of the 1936 treaty between Syria and France and the rejection of France to implement the treaty which provided for giving Syria its unconditional independence, huge protests took to the streets of all Syrian cities demanding independence of all Syrian territories including the Liwa and denouncing the French policy which wanted to perpetuate its occupation and ignore the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.

The League of Nations, which rejected the Turkish French conspiracy of annexing the Liwa, sent a committee of observers who came to Iskenderun and met with political and religious leaders there and listened to their demands. The committee reached a conclusion that the majority of the population categorically reject the annexation of the Liwa. At the beginning of January, 1937, huge demonstrations were staged in Antakya, al-Rehaniya and al-Sweidayeh in front of the committee demanding to preserve the Liwa as part of Syria. The committee returned to Geneva and conveyed the demands of the inhabitants of the Liwa to the League of Nations stressing that the Turkish inhabitants of the Liwa are not a majority and they live peacefully along with the Arab population of Iskenderun enjoying their complete rights. The League formed a committee of six experts who put a general law for Iskenderun on November 29th, 1937 stating that Iskenderun would be independent internally and its external affairs should be run by Syria. The law also provides for forming a unified military, postal and customs system between Syria and the Liwa. 

Turkey and France announced their agreement on the final status of the Liwa. However, they immediately started provocative acts that run contrary to the settlement declaring the nature of their sinister conspiracy and malicious attempt. On June 9th, 1938, the French envoy to Iskenderun resigned in protest of his country’s immoral policy there. However, the French- Turkish colonialist policy continued through deploying 2500 Turkish soldiers in the Liwa under the pretext of helping the French troops in preserving security and stability there. On September 1, 1939 Turkey exploited the outbreak of the World War II and the Coalition's need to join Turkey to them or keeping it neutral, particularly after the treaty of Montero 1939, it dominated the straits in the time of war, announcing the annexation of the Liwa. The French and Turkish governments exploited the international circumstances and usurped Iskenderun. They appointed a Parliament of Turkish members for fear of electing Arab parliamentarians and formed a government in the Liwa’ which immediately started a racist policy that aimed to obliterate the genuine Arab features replacing them with Turkish ones with the aim of wiping out its Arab demographic and geographic features. The racist measures included halting education in Arabic and starting a Turkish curriculum and replacing the Syrian currency with the Turkish Lira in a way that flagrantly violates the resolution of the League of Nations.

Despite all the racist measures taken by France and Turkey to eradicate the Arab features of the Liwa, it is still preserving the genuine Arab nature. The names of cities, areas, mountains and valleys in the Liwa still bear the spirit of the region and its deeply-rooted history and civilization; they speak through the identity of the land, as Antakya, Iskenderun and al-Swiediya are names which reflect the Arab nature  of the cities. Iskenderun and Antakya are considered as main cities of the Liwa. Iskenderun was founded by Alexander the Great in 333 BC and it was an important trade Centre between the East and the West. Antakya is also an important city built by Alexander’s successor Selecus I Necator in the 3rd century BC. It played a very important political and economic role under the Romans.

Lying on the north-west of Syria, the Liwa overlooks the Mediterranean and it is distinguished for its magnificent landscapes, beautiful scenery and splendid views. More than one million people live in the region where the average of the Turks didn't exceed 20% of the residents in 1920, even following the influx of thousands of Turks to the area by order of the French and Turkish authorities in the 1930s with the aim of changing the demographic status of the area.

The Liwa was liberated by the Arabs in 20 Hijra from the Byzantine occupation and restored its Arab identity. But, it was occupied by the Crusaders in 1090 and remained under their control until it was liberated by Saladin in 1291, four years after the great battle of Hittin which resulted in the liberation of Jerusalem. After the fall of the Ayyubid state and the occupation of Syria and other Arab countries by the Ottoman state, the Liwa suffered a great deal as was the case of all the regions that were under the Ottoman occupation suffering from poverty, ignorance and backwardness. However, the people of the Liwa remained in contact with their brothers in Syria and other countries and took part in all the revolts that erupted against the Ottoman occupation including the revolution of Fakr Eddin al-Ma’ani al-Thani and the Great Arab Revolt in 1916 which ended the four-century Ottoman occupation of the Arab homeland.

History repeats itself. The states which conspired against Syria 74 years ago and usurped Liwa Iskenderun are now complicit in shedding the blood of the Syrian people through supporting the armed terrorist groups with funds and weapons to destroy Syria and commit savage massacres against Syrian people and their public and private properties with the aim of implementing a Zionist agenda in the region and putting an end to Syria’s pivotal role in the region, especially its support of resistance against Israel and confrontation of all colonialist projects in the region. Britain and France offered sophisticated weapons to the terrorist groups which are trained in camps opened by Erdogan’s government before being exported to Syria. But thanks to the steadfastness of Syrian people and army, the heralds of Syrian victory against terrorism began to appear repelling the global conspiracy against Syria and disclosing the shameful role of Britain, France and Turkey in the conspiracy.