Also called Ekushey Day, Martyrs’ Day or Language Movement Day, this day commemorates the students who were killed by Pakistani police on Feb. 21, 1952 while they were campaigning for the recognition of Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. After this event, the movement gained momentum and Bangla was recognized as one of the state languages of Pakistan at a session of parliament on May 9, 1954. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971, this day became a national holiday. At one minute past midnight on Feb. 21, the president of Bangladesh arrives at the Shaheed Minar, the monument to martyrs, to pay homage to the language martyrs. He is followed by the prime minister, members of his Cabinet, the staff of diplomatic missions in Dhaka, political leaders and representatives of various institutions and organizations. In accordance with a 1999 decision of the General Conference of UNESCO, since 2000 Feb. 21 has also been observed as International Mother Language Day in tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for their mother tongue.
Norwegians celebrate this day as the birthday of their king, Harald V. Born on Feb. 21, 1937, Harald V became the king of Norway in 1991, succeeding his father, Olaf V. As he is the great-grandson of King Edward VII of England, he is also in the line of succession to the British throne (currently placed 60th). The king’s birthday celebrations are a royal event. The celebrations include a church service and a dinner at Akershus Castle.
On this day in 1965 the legendary African-American activist and leader Malcolm X (b. 1925) was assassinated. Also known as Detroit Red and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm was a Black Muslim minister and a national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. He was also the founder of the Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Following a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm became a Sunni Muslim. Less than a year later he was assassinated in Washington Heights on the first day of National Brotherhood Week. Some people still believe the FBI and the New York Police Department were involved in his assassination.
On this day in 1952 Turkey officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey’s membership application was filed on May 11, 1950. The Turkish Parliament approved Turkey’s membership in the organization on Feb. 18, 1952.