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International Mother Language Day 2022

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By Roy Lie Atjam

“Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage”

The Hague, 21 February 2022. The Embassy of the Republic of Bangladesh in the Netherlands and Leiden University (Humanities) presented a creative observance of  International Mother Language Day, 2022. The venue was The Hague campus of the university.

International Mother Language Day, each year on 21 February  United Nations member states observe International Mother Language Day. Bangladesh championed the  “Idea” to celebrate 21 February as the International Mother Language Day, the history of her people’s movement to uphold Mother Language Day(1952). In 1999,UNESCO General Conference proclaimed International Mother Language Day, followed by  endorsement by the UN.

General Assembly(2000) International Mother Language day, its history, it all started in 1952 when students demonstrated in recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of then East Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Interesting to note that the Honourable Sheikh Hasina Prime Minister of Bangladesh vows to continue efforts to proliferate Bangla language, culture. The Prime Minister continued, “the government is actively engaging in efforts to further elevate the status of the Bangla language and Bengali culture in the international sphere.”

Highlighting the commemoration of Feb 21 as International Mother Language Day, Sheikh Hasina added, “this is something to which we all need to pay special attention. February  21 is not just for us. We must strive to honour those who loved their mother tongue and sacrificed their lives for it while finding and preserving any lost mother tongues.”

On the program of the creative observance: art, music, songs and poems.

Prof. Dr. Giles Scott- Smith, Chair International Studies, University of Leiden delivered the welcome remarks.

Screening of a video file on International Mother Language Day.

Video screening: Launching of a book of 50 short stories from Bangladeshi authors ‘When the Mango Tree Blossomed’. 

The following speakers joined via video conference from Bangladesh: Niaz Zaman, Farah Ghuznavi and Noora Shamsi Bahar.

Niaz Zaman, who retired from the University of Dhaka, is at present Advisor, Department of English and Modern Languages, Independent University, Bangladesh. Her significant publications are The Art of Kantha Embroidery and the award-winning A Divided Legacy: The Partition in Selected Novels of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the first book-length study on the subject. She is also a creative writer.  Her story, “The Dance,” won an award in the First Asiaweek Short Story Competition and is included in her first collection of short stories: The Dance and Other Stories.  She has also written the novel A Different Sita, about the Liberation War of Bangladesh.  Among her other awards are the Bangla Academy Award for Translation (2016) and the Anannya Sahitya Puroshkar (2013).

Farah Ghuznavi is a writer, columnist, translator and development worker, whose writing has been widely anthologized in her native Bangladesh as well as in the UK, Germany, France, Austria, USA, Canada, Singapore, India, and Nepal. Her story, “Judgement Day,” was awarded in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2010, and “Getting There” placed second in the Oxford University GEF Competition. Farah was Writer in Residence with Commonwealth Writers in 2013. She edited the Lifelines anthology (Zubaan Books, 2012), and subsequently published her first short story collection Fragments of Riversong (Daily Star Books, 2013). She can be contacted through her author page on Facebook and Twitter.

Noora Shamsi Bahar is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English and Modern Languages, North South University. She completed her MA in English from The University of Western Ontario and has been teaching undergraduate students since 2010. She has presented research papers on the themes of violence (on the page, stage, and screen), performative revenge, rape trauma, childhood defiance, and transgressive womanhood in Oxford, Prague, and Dhaka. These papers have been published as book chapters and as journal articles. Her newly found vocation is translating Bengali short fiction into English, several of which have been published in local dailies. 

Ms Kathleen Ferrier, Chairperson Netherlands UNESCO Commission. Ferrier lauded Ambassador Riaz Hamidullah for emphasizing the importance of Mother Language.

Ms. Kris Van de Poel, Secretary General, Taal Unie, Mother Language and Taal Unie go together.

Students performances, poem declamation, in German, Czech, Indonesian, Yemen, Tagalog, Italian, Turkish, English, Dutch and an Italian song.

Prof. dr. Maarten Mous, Professor of Africa Linguistics, University of Leiden .

Mother Language Day should be inclusive.

H.E. Ambassador Riaz Hamidullah, thanked all the performers for their excellent contribution to the creative observance of the International Mother Language Day 2022. He concluded by distinguishing the importance of “otherness”, let’s embrace others. “We must do, all we can, to save our mother tongue, culture and our unity in diversity.

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