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Tower Hamlets community marks Martyrs' Day at Altab Ali Park

martyrs day

Martyrs’ Day, otherwise known as The United Nations' (UN) International Mother Language Day, was marked at Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel earlier today (February 21).

Mother Language Day is observed annually on 21 February across the world to promote and celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity.

The date was chosen in recognition of the killing of four students in Bangladesh on 21 February 1952, during a campaign to officially use their mother language, Bengali.

It has been a public holiday in Bangladesh since 1953.

The Shaheed Minar (‘Martyr Monument’) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which commemorates those students, has a replica in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel.

The monument serves as the focus for public commemoration in Tower Hamlets.

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Cllr Shafi Ahmed, Speaker of the Council, and Her Excellency Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to the United Kingdom, laid wreaths at Shaheed Minar in Altab Ali Park.

As languages disappear, linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened.

According to the UN, globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.

Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“On Martyrs’ Day we remember those who made huge sacrifices for the recognition of their mother language.

“It marks the importance of embracing linguistic diversity and protecting cultural differences.

“I am proud to be Mayor of a welcoming borough, where people from many different backgrounds call Tower Hamlets home.
“That is why I am proud to reintroduce Community Language provision so that our residents can learn their mother tongue and take pride in their cultural and linguistic heritage.”

Her Excellency Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner for Bangladesh to the United Kingdom, said:

“21st February, the Amar Ekushey is a symbol of honour and glory in the history of the Bengali nation. On this day in 1952, fearless Bengali students made supreme sacrifices to realise the right to speak in their mother tongue Bangla as a State language. It is also a symbol of Bengali nationalism, Bangladesh's secular, progressive and inclusive values, and a key inspiration for our War of Liberation.

“It is a privilege for me as High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the UK to join the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and the patriotic British Bangladeshi Diaspora at the Altab Ali Park Shaheed Minar to pay homage to the Bengali Language Martyrs of 1952. I am grateful to the Kendrio Shaheed Minar Committee UK and their team for all the hard work they do to commemorate Amar Ekushey in Tower Hamlets.”

Nurul Islam, General Secretary of Kendrio Shaheed Minar Committee, said:

“Martyrs’ Day is a significant occasion and I am pleased that we are able to mark it in Tower Hamlets at Altab Ali Park for the first time since 2020.”

Last summer, to mark the 70th Anniversary of Martyrs’ Day, children and young people from Tower Hamlets took part in a series of film-making workshops to learn about the story of 21 February 1952.

They filmed and interviewed local cultural activists including poet and writer Shamim Azad, writer and director AM Neswar and freedom fighter Abul Kashem Khan to produce an animation film which was premiered on YouTube today.

The final cut will be distributed for the international film festival circuit.

Posted on Tuesday 21st February 2023