International Mother Language Day: February 21, 2011
Refat Ara Jerin is an Intern at Aura’s House and a student of Film and Digital Media at The American University of Rome. She originally comes from Bangladesh.
International Mother Language Day is something that I hold dear to my heart, an event held annually worldwide on the 21st of February.
It exists to promote an awareness of linguistics and cultural diversity, which I find to be a crucial part of my life and which I think deserves more recognition on a global scale. 1 UNESCO first announced it on the 17 of November, 1999. Eventually, it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution which established 2008 as the International Year of Languages. 2 International Mother Language Day has it’s roots in the international recognition of Language Movement Day. This date has been honored in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) since 1952, when a number of University of Dhaka students were killed by the Pakistani police and army in Dhaka during Bengali Language Movement protests.
To commemorate the deceased, the “Shaheed Minar”[= Pillars of Martyrs] sculpture was erected in the heart of the Dhaka University campus by Hamidur Rahman, a Bangladeshi sculptor. I remember, way back when I went there in 1998, people placed flowers, wreaths, cards and pictures at this monument as a sign of respect. I feel proud of those students who gave their lives to give our language back to us. I feel especially proud of them because thanks to their ultimate sacrifice I now have an independent country that I can call my own, as well as my own language. Unfortunately, living abroad I do not have the opportunity to visit the Shaheed Minar, but I’d love to be able to go back there. Even though my financial situation doesn’t let me physically visit, I still pay the martyrs all my respects through my prayers.
In the end, what I think each and every one of us should do is respect our own language and be proud of it, no matter how few people speak it. We should pay our dues to all who laid down their lives to save ours, and those of our friends. Even if we can’t do anything else, just promise yourself that on February 21st, International Mother Language Day, you will pray for the fallen and thank them for maintaining your country’s own form of dignity. The language aspect is nice too.
2 U.N. General Assembly, Sixty-first Session, Agenda item 114, Resolution adopted by the General Assembly,