Politician and statesman (B. 1892, Gaziantep – March 3rd, 1980, Istanbul). He was the son of Karamürselzade Mustafa Şevki Pasha and was the first and only President of Republic of Hatay. He was the former Hatay and Istanbul deputy and the father of Mustafa Murat Sökmenoğlu, who was one of the founders of the Milliyetçi Demokrasi Party (MDP).
Tayfur Sökmen completed his education by special education after he finished Kırıkhan Junior High School and started to work on intelligence duties during the First World War years. During the years of Turkish War of Independence he served on following positions; Commander of Kuvay-ı Milliye (T. N. Nationalist Forces) under Second Corps, Representative of Hatay Müdafaa-i Hukuk Cemiyeti (T. N. Hatay Resistance Organization), Founder and President of Müdafaa-i Hukuk Cemiyeti of Iskenderun and its vicinity, President of Antakya-Iskenderun Muaveneti İçtimaiye Cemiyeti (T. N. Social Welfare Organization), President of Hatay Erkimlik Cemiyeti. He led the organization of resistance movement against the French invasion in the District of Alexandretta. With the Ankara Agreement signed between the TBMM Government and French Government on October 20th, 1921, Sanjak of Alexandretta joined Syria, which was under the French mandate, as an autonomous government unit. When the French mandate government started to adopt a manner that favored the Arabs and Christians, the resistance started once more.
When Tayfur Bey was sentenced to death penalty in absentia because he was one of the leaders of the resistance, he fled to Adana. Afterwards, he went abroad and lived in Wien between the years of 1924 and 1926. With the initiative of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkey, a permission was obtained from France for Sökmen to enter the District of Alexandretta. Despite this, because the pressure on him continued to exist he was forced to live in Gaziantep, Adana and Istanbul after 1927.
Tayfur Sökmen got into TBMM by being elected independent deputy from Antalya in 1935. After France granted independence to Syria and Lebanon in 1936, he worked for the District of Alexandretta to gain independence as well. In the meantime Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was also taking serious steps for the District of Alexandretta to gain its independence.
In January 1937, the District of Alexandretta was recognized as a semi-autonomous district, which was subordinated to Syria in foreign affairs but was to be governed by its own constitution, and its name was changed to the District of Hatay. In the same year, upon the diplomatic note Turkey sent, France requested the issue to be resolved in the United Nations. With the agreement that was reached as a result of the imposition of international conditions, the League of Nations (United Nations) accepted a constitution for Hatay on May 19th, 1937 and declared that Republic of Hatay was founded under the supervision of a council consisting of Turks and the French. Tayfur Sökmen was elected the President of Republic of Hatay on September 2nd, 1938.
Republic of Hatay joined the Republic of Turkey upon the decision of its own National Assembly on June 23rd, 1939. Sökmen, whose Presidency came to an end upon the joining of Hatay to Republic of Turkey, maintained his legislative task in TBMM as a deputy of Antalya (1939-50) and Hatay (1950-54). Sökmen was elected the quota senator by the Presidency in 1969 and was appointed as a member of Senate of the Republic. He withdrew from active political life in 1975 and he died in Istanbul in 1980. Some secondary schools and higher education institutions were called after him following his death. He was married and was the father of six children. He wrote about the Hatay Issue in detail in his book called “Hatay’ın Kurtuluşu İçin Harcanan Çabalar” (1978).