The Alawite State, listed in most stamp catalogues under the French name Alaouites, was a region in western Syria bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. It was part of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the twentieth century but was occupied by France at the close of World War I. Growing anti-French sentiment in the region led to the establishment of the Arab Kingdom of Syria on 7 March 1920. The League of Nations issued a mandate on 5 May 1920 for France to govern the area of Syria and Lebanon. France divided the area of its mandate into territories and the Territory of the Alawites was formed on 2 September 1920. The coastal city of Latakia was the administrative capital. At the end of 1924, the territory became an independent state while still administered by France under mandate.
The first stamps issued for Alaouites were overprinted French stamps and were available in Latakia from the first of January 1925. This initial regular issue included twenty-one definitive stamps, four for airmail, and five French surcharged stamps intended for postage due. All included an overprint of the denomination and state name in both French and Arabic. Beginning in March 1925, Syrian stamps were overprinted for use in Alaouites. There were a total of twenty-five regular issue Syrian overprinted stamps released between 1925 and 1928 as well as thirteen intended for airmail and five for postage due.
In 1930, the Alawite State was renamed the Government of Latakia and Syrian stamps overprinted with “Lattaquie” were released the following year.
Scott #C17, 50 centimes yellow green with red overprints and perforated 13½, was released in June 1929, one of three airmail stamps released by the Alawite State at the time by applying an additional overprint of an airplane on previously overprinted stamps in either red or black. The 50 centime value, with its initial overprint of country name in French and Arabic on the Syrian yellow-green type A4, was originally released 1 March 1925 printed by photogravure on unwatermarked paper. The view pictured is the harbor area of Alexandretta, to the north of Alaouites. The Scott catalogue lists three varieties for this stamp with minor numbers: #C17a features a doubling of the airplane overprint; #C17b has the airplane overprint on both the front and back of the stamp; and #C17c is a listing for a pair of stamps with the airplane overprint tête bêche, a philatelic term from the French for “head-to-tail” describing a joined pair of stamps in which one is upside-down in relation to the other.