Excellencies, guests, welcome
It has become something of a tradition that every year on 21st February we meet at the International Mother Language monument in The Hague’s Zuiderpark. I am proud of the fact that the embassy of Bangladesh together with The Hague city council joined forces to erect this monument in 2019.
This year the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to mark this recent tradition in a different way. We have come together online, but we still feel close and connected to one another. We share the belief that a mother tongue is very important to people and population groups. Also, or perhaps even more so, for the languages of minority groups.
Today marks the day of the student protest in 1952 which called for recognition of the Bengali language in what was then Pakistan. This protest was violently put down resulting in much bloodshed with many deaths and countless injured. The events of that day are closely connected with the history of young Bangladesh. On the initiative of Bangladesh, in 1999 the UNESCO General Meeting unanimously decided that henceforth the 21st February should be celebrated as International Mother Language Day.
In The Hague too, the city of peace and justice, we are well aware of the importance of a mother tongue. Our city has almost two hundred international bodies and embassies. Where many different languages are spoken. The Hague is also home to the International Court of Justice of the United Nations and the Permanent Court of Arbitration where people can defend their rights.
But above all, our city is a place where more than half the inhabitants originally came from elsewhere in the world. All those people add to the Dutch identity in their own way. The language and culture of the country or population group they came from forms an important part of that. It gives people a history, roots and pride. Without that, being a self-confident part of Dutch society is made more difficult.
We share the belief that native languages are important, that they should be recognised and may be freely spoken. Recognition also means listening to what the voices have to say in their own language. Because far more than speaking, listening is the best way to achieve peace and justice. This is what we stand for in The Hague. Therefore I am pleased that we are celebrating this day together this year, and I hope that next year we will be able to do so again at the Zuiderpark monument.
Thank you very much.