International Mother Language Day is celebrated on 21st February to promote linguistic and cultural #diversity and #multilingualism. The idea to celebrate this day was the initiative of Bangladesh. It was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference and has been observed worldwide since 2000. The day is in commemoration of the protest movement that Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) led to fighting for the right to speak #Bengali.
Before the independence of #Bangladesh, Pakistan enforced Urdu as the only language of the country, ignoring the fact that Bengali was the mother tongue of the people of the region. This became one of the primary incentives for the Bangladesh Liberation War, as people sacrificed their lives to speak their mother tongue.
Another group we would like to focus on today is the Uyghurs. They are experiencing a cultural genocide by the Chinese government by an ongoing erasure of #Turkic Muslim culture and religion. The #Uyghur language is a member of the Turkic language family, spoken by about 10 million Uyghurs. The Uyghur language was written in #Arabic script.
Uyghurs who were taken to the ‘re-education’ camps are forced to learn Chinese in classes. They would not be allowed to leave the camps unless they learnt over 1,000 Chinese characters and spoke Chinese. Speaking or writing the Uyghur language is forbidden. State employees who use these languages are deemed “unpatriotic”. Chinese authorities have banned the common Arabic greeting meaning “peace be unto you.” In addition, they have erased Arabic from restaurant signage, mosques, street signs, and murals.
While over 7000 identified mother tongues exist, UNESCO states that 40% of them are endangered due to a lack of proper education in those languages. In addition, war and violence force minority communities to abandon their homeland for safety. Also, many communities experience cultural genocide by authoritarian governments. As a result, their language and culture face the danger of being erased permanently.