Toronto, Feb 23, 2014 – International Mother Language Day was observed by Baloch, Azerbaijani, Turkoman and Ahwazi Arab communities in Toronto to honour their culture and heritage under repressive occupation of Iran and Pakistan.
Baloch representative from Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada) and Balochistan People’s Party spoke on the occasion and described the situation of cultural genocide and mass killings as ongoing repressive measures by the states of Iran and Pakistan to quell the freedom and rights movement of the Baloch people.
Mohammad Ali Baloch, General Secretary of BHRC (Canada) and spokesperson, Balochistan People’s party spoke in his mother tongue, Balochi, highlighting Iran’s fascist policies towards Baloch and other oppressed nationalities by denying them the right to preserve, develop and be educated in their mother languages. He, in the end, recited Balochi patriotic verse addressing the issue of Baloch identity and struggle.
Various representatives from Ahwazi Arabs, South Azerbaijanis and Turkoman also spoke at length against the racist policies of Iran towards oppressed nationalities. Abu Sharif represented the Al-Ahwaz Democratic Popular Front; Oguz Turk and Hagan Turan spoke for the freedom of South Azerbaijan from Iran; Chaharyar represented the Turkoman nation’s struggle for rights and freedom. Most of the representatives spoke in their mother languages to honour their heritage and culture.
Full Text of speech by Zaffar Baloch, President, BHRC (Canada):
Mother language is the first social contact of a human being with the world that will lead to knowledge, freedom of expression and development to higher levels of consciousness as we progress in nature and society. Denial of such a basic human need to a child or a people is the basis for ignorance, intolerance, loss of identity, cultural genocide and war.
In recognition of the importance of linguistic diversity, UNESCO declared 21st February as International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in its 30th session of General Conference in 1999. The declaration was motivated by the current threat to linguistic diversity posed by globalization and as well as the tendency to use a single language in communication, at the risk of marginalizing the other languages. According to a UN report, there exist about 6000 languages used by people of the world today. Of these 6000 about 3000 are considered under threat of extinction mainly in the Americas, Australia and Pacific regions. Reports also indicate that every year 10 endangered languages disappear from the world never to be restored – a great loss to humanity and knowledge accumulated in thousands of years.
The history behind IMLD is intimately linked to the cultural history of a nation called Bangladesh, where on the 21st of February, 1952, tragic events took place that eventually shaped the history of this nation in conflict with Pakistan’s hegemonic policy toward oppressed nationalities and their languages. What began as a language movement in 1952 in the former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, developed into a national liberation struggle and complete independence from Pakistan. It also internationalized the importance of mother language as a basic human right by the UN. It is noteworthy that the cultural genocide of a people will eventually lead to mass annihilation of human beings – Bangladesh won freedom from Pakistan in 1971 at a cost of 3 million lives.
Balochistan, today, is going through a similar phase of cultural and physical genocide with 18,000 youth, students, journalists, and political activists enforced disappeared by the Pakistani state security forces. Similarly, the Iranian fascist regime is engaged in mass prison executions of Baloch youth and complete repression of cultural and language rights of Baloch, Kurd, Ahwazi Arabs, Azeri Turks and Turkoman people.
The recent discovery of mass graves on January 25th, 2014 in the Khuzdar area of the Pakistani occupied Balochistan is part of the genocidal policies of the state against Baloch people. According to locals, the 3 mass graves discovered by a shepherd contain more than 100 mutilated bodies of the tortured and executed Baloch activists disappeared by the Pakistan Army in the last several years. The families of the victims of forced disappearances are now on a long march to the capital city of Islamabad led by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. This is the longest march in the recorded history of mankind that began from Quetta, Balochistan few months ago. The Baloch families will inform the UN officials in Islamabad about the atrocities Pakistani state security forces are committing in Balochistan.
As we speak today, military operations of the Pakistan armed forces are continued against Baloch villages in Awaran, Dera Bugti, Kohlu and other parts of Balochistan where gunship helicopters are being used against civilians.
The message of the IMLD for oppressed nations is very simple – it is a political issue that needs to be addressed likewise. Nations without state are at risk of losing language, culture and natural resources to powers with mechanized modern armies. The only guarantee that we have for the preservation of our culture, heritage and language is the safety of an internationally recognized political geography as a member state of the UN.
President, BHRC (Canada)