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Bangladesh honors
Bangladesh honors UNESCO-designated language freedom movement
Bangladeshi Ambassador to Korea Abida Islam, fourth from left, pose with other ambassadors and members 토토사이트추천 of the diplomatic corps in Seoul during a ceremony to mark Language Martyrs' Day and International Mother Language Day in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul, Feb. 21. / Korea Times photo by Yi Whan-woo

By Yi Whan-woo

The Embassy of Bangladesh in Korea celebrated Language Martyrs' Day and International Mother Language Day last week at the Korean National Commission for UNESCO in Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul.

The celebration paid tribute to the martyrs of the movement led by the country's founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on Feb. 21, 1952, to protect the rights of speaking the mother tongue ― Bangla ― as well as self-entity, culture and heritage.

Bangladesh was then East Bengal under the Dominion of Pakistan that sought to make Urdu its only official language.

Students and other advocates of Bangla as an official language were killed in Dhaka during their campaign.

Also led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country became independent in 1971. The country's name means "land of Bangla-speaking people."

In 1999, UNESCO proclaimed Feb. 21 as International Mother Language Day in accordance with the Bangladeshi people's request.

"The language movement continually inspired us to fight against the oppression of the rulers of then Pakistan and eventually led to the creation of independent Bangladesh in 1971 through a nine-month historic war of liberation," Bangladeshi Ambassador to Korea Abida Islam said during the commemoration.

Ambassador Islam said she was happy to see that the spirit of Language Martyrs Day was "now resonating in the hearts" of the peoples of 193 countries after UNESCO's designation of International Mother Language Day.

She noted that Bangladesh and Korea had "striking similarities with our language movement," noting that Korea had struggled to protect Hangeul during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation.

UNESCO predicts that almost 3,000 languages are at the risk of disappearing and more than half may be extinct by the end of this century.

Accordingly, Bangladesh ― the home of 41 small ethnic groups consisting of more than 3 million people ― established the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka in 2001.

"To that end, our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka in 2001, which is dedicated to preserving and carrying out research on spoken languages all over the world," Islam said.

"The government is also sincere about addressing issues related to the absence of written alphabets in the languages of most of the ethnic minorities, including lack of language teachers and educational materials."

The Seoul celebration was attended by Korea National Commission for UNESCO Secretary-General Kim Kwang-ho, Director General of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau Kim Jung-han at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several ambassadors ― including Philip Turner of New Zealand, Michael Danagher of Canada and Jibao Mattai of Sierra Leone ― whose countries advocate multilingualism.

The three ambassadors shared the initiatives of their respective countries in promoting multilingualism.

Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent congratulatory messages, which embassy officials read.

"To embrace martyrdom for the cause of the mother tongue is a rare incident in world history," the president said. "Observing the International Mother Language Institute, I firmly believe it will play a positive role in attaining a sustainable future through multilingual education."

The prime minister, who is also a daughter of the founding father, referred to International Mother Language Day as "a source of inspiration to all people of the world in establishing truth and justice."

Bangladesh honors
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Bangladesh honors

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