People visited Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel on Monday, February 21, to mark Martyrs’ Day, also known as the United Nations (UN) International Mother Language Day.
Observed around the world on February 21 each year, Mother Language Day promotes and celebrates linguistic and cultural diversity.
The date was chosen in recognition of the murder of four students in Bangladesh on February 21, 1952, during a campaign to officially use their native language, Bengali. It has been a public holiday in Bangladesh since 1953.
The Shaheed Minar (“Martyr Monument”) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which commemorates these students, has a replica in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, which is the focus of public commemoration in Tower Hamlets.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Chairman of Council, Cllr Mohammed Ahbab Hossain and Councilor Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Sport, laid wreaths at the Shaheed Minar in Altab Ali Park.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Martyrs’ Day marks the sacrifice of those who fought and died for recognition of their mother tongue, and it also symbolizes the importance of protecting and embracing different cultures, languages and ways of life.
“Tower Hamlets is proud to be such a tolerant and welcoming place, and I am delighted that on the 70th anniversary of Martyrs’ Day, we can come together in person to mark this important day.”
According to the UN, every two weeks, a language disappears, taking with it a whole cultural and linguistic heritage. Forty-three percent of the approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world are also believed to be at risk.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Martyrs’ Day and the theme is “Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities”.
Her Excellency Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner for Bangladesh said:
“The Immortal Ekushey is a symbol of honor and glory in the history of the Bengali nation, for on this day in 1952 fearless Bengali students made supreme sacrifices to realize the right to speak in their mother tongue the Bengali as the state language.
“It is a matter of pride that in 1999, under the visionary diplomatic leadership of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and some Bangladeshis abroad, Bangladesh Language Martyrs Day, February 21, was recognized as International Mother Language Day at UNESCO, transcending the spirit of Omor Ekushey to the global multilingual community.
“Each year, the High Commission also celebrates International Mother Language Day with all diplomatic missions in London to promote multilingualism, diversity and world peace. Today I call on our young Bangladeshi diaspora in Tower Hamlets and beyond to use the digital technology at their fingertips for multilingual learning.
Notes to Editor:
The main driver of Tower Hamlets’ population growth has been international migration, contributing over half of the borough’s population (ONS mid-year 2018 estimates). Four in 10 residents were born outside the UK.
Census data (2011) shows:
Over two-thirds (69%) of the borough’s population belong to minority ethnic groups: 55% belong to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups and a further 14% belong to white minority groups.
The Bangladeshi population makes up almost a third (32%) of the borough’s population – considerably larger than the proportion across London (3%) or England (less than 1%). Tower Hamlets has the largest Bangladeshi population in England; about. 25% of the entire diaspora.
United Nations: safeguarding linguistic diversity
Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly threatened or disappear altogether. As languages fade, so does the world’s rich mosaic of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique ways of thinking and speaking – valuable resources to ensure a better future – are also lost.
Every two weeks, a language disappears, taking with it a whole cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43% of the approximately 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages really have a place in education systems and in the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.
Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.
International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
Posted on Monday February 21st, 2022