International Mother Tongue Day

Yesterday was International Mother Tongue Day, a day celebrated to appreciate the diversity of languages, promote tolerance, and recognize the role of language throughout history. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, language has become a contested and sensitive issue, transforming this blessing into a curse. The Holy Quran acknowledges and appreciates diverse languages, implying that this diversity is a sign of God‘s power. Ancient Greeks believed that language distinguished humans from the animal world. Confucius said that the greatest oppression in human history is the oppression of words. In today‘s world, man has discovered the role of language in shaping human consciousness, and accepted its pivotal role in revolutionizing science and extending the realm of human knowledge and understanding. All of this demonstrates how important language is.

The simple answer as to why language is not a unifying force in Afghanistan, but rather a source of division along linguistic lines, is that it has been politicized and misused by the ruling class. The misuse of language, religion, or any other social phenomenon for the purpose of consolidating power or achieving political gains always leads to disastrous and bitter consequences. It is abused under the guise of serving the language and its speakers, but in reality neither the language nor the speakers benefit from its politicization. It is better that the power apparatus remains neutral on this subject, allowing a language to follow its natural development path, and neither support nor suppress any particular language. From a legal standpoint, speaking one‘s mother tongue without feeling discriminated against or humiliated is one of the most basic rights of all citizens in any country.

It is natural to feel a connection to one‘s native language, as it is through this language that one first made sense of the world and began to interact with others. Therefore, this right should be officially acknowledged and speakers of all languages should be given the opportunity to learn in their native language.

If someone wishes to enhance their language skills, there are simple methods to do so. The development of a language is largely dependent on the amount of knowledge produced in that language, the amount of artistic and cultural products that are created in that language, and most importantly, the role it plays in improving the quality of life of its speakers. If a language is not developed, it will eventually become extinct, as is the case with many languages in the world. When the politicization of language is avoided, the path for its natural development is opened and the inhabitants of a country can live in harmony without any conflict or tension related to language. As Rumi says:

An Indian and a Turk may be able to communicate with one another, but two Turks may not be able to do so. Therefore, let us try to find a common language, as empathy can surpass the need to speak the same language.