Region: Middle East / Central Asia
Group: Syria Area
Classification: League of Nations Mandate (France)
Prior Regime: The Ottoman Empire / Syrian Federation
1920, Apr 25 – The region of Syria and Lebanon were placed under French Mandate
1922 – The Alawites were placed within the Federation of Syria
1924, Dec 1 – Alawite State was created as they seperated from the Federation of Syria.
1930, Sept 22 – Renamed to the Government of Latakia
1936, Dec 5 – Latakia joined the Syrian Republic
Following Regime: Government of Latakia
Scott Catalogue: (Alaouites) #1-49, C1-C21, J1-J10
Pick Catalogue: none
With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War 1, the territories of the Middle East were placed under a League of Nations Mandate to France and Great Britain. A “mandate”, was a legal right of a nation to administer a territory captured during WW1 in behalf of the League of Nations. In 1920, the Syria/Lebanon region was placed under French mandate and was divided into six sub-regions: Damascus, Aleppo, Alawites, Jubal Druze, the Sanjak of Alexandretta and Greater Lebanon.
The Alawites are located in the mountainous coastal region of central Syria.
The Alawite people are known to follow a particular “secretive” sect of Shia Islam, and for centuries maintained their distinction in this small corner of the Ottoman Empire. Through much of the rule of the Ottomans, most of the Alawites remained as peasants, primarily dominated by majority Sunnis in the rest of Syria and the Empire. While initially separated in the 1920 mandate, as the French began to consolidate power in the region, the Alawites were combined with Damascus and Aleppo into the Syrian Federation in 1922.
When the federation was solidified into the “State of Syria” on 1 Dec, 1924, the Alawites refused to be part of the new state, instead choosing to create their own identity by forming the “Alawite State”. As the Alawites were somewhat separated from Syria, both in geography and religion, they had little participation in the unsuccessful “Great Syrian revolt” of 1925-1926 against the French.
Sunni landowners living in the more urban areas of the state, began advocating joining a greater Syria state, while the more rural Alawites supported continued separation. In a French concession to Arab nationalists, Alawite State was renamed the “Government of Latakia” on 22 Sept, 1930. As Arab nationalistic fervor continued to grow, the voice of the Sunnis were able to marginalize the Alawite protests and eventually on 5 Dec, 1936 Latakia re-joined Syria. Full independence was granted to Syria in 17 April 1946, as the mandate period came to a close.
Although the French never issued stamps specifically printed for Alawite State, stamps of France and Syria were overprinted in both French (Alaouites) and Arabic (العلويون) and used for postage. The large varieties of the overprints make a great subject for collecting. The first stamps for the state were issued on 1 Jan, 1925, consisting of stamps from the “liberty” series and the “Pasteur” series of France overprinted, and surcharged with the currency of the region.
Shortly afterwards, in March of 1925, stamps of Syria replaced those of France as the issues overprinted for use in the Alawite State. The Syrian stamps, which featured beautiful pictorials within the region, were overprinted in various fonts and colors with the name “ALAOUITES” in both French and Arabic. Beginning in 1926, due to changes in postal rates and currency fluctuations, Syrian stamps were surcharged with new, higher values, and these new rates were also reflected in Alawite State.
Additionally, air post and postage due stamps were overprinted on both French and Syrian Stamps. Initially the air post stamps merely were overprinted “Avion”, but soon replaced with the well known monoplane overprint (in black or red), which adds a distinct interesting feature for stamps of this region.
Since all Alawite stamps are overprints, there are a myriad of interesting variations, many of which are rarely seen. Inverts, double overprints, variations in color, and more are recorded in the catalogues.
Stamps of Alawite State were replaced with stamps of the Government of Latakia in 1931.
The Lebanese-Syrian Livre (Pound) were used throughout the French Madated area of Syria/Lebanon.