The word "Shahid" means martyr and the word "minar" means monument. Shahid Minar- the Monument of Martyr - is a unique monument located in the heart of Dhaka city, capital of Bangladesh to pay homage to the martyr of the movement for the right to speak in our own 'mother language'. This monument is an icon of courage, sacrifice and patriotism of the people of Bangladesh. It symbolizes the unparalleled strong will of the people to safeguard their own culture and love for their mother tongue. It is also the first of the series of movements leading to the war of liberation of Bangladesh.
Before 1971, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan and was called East Pakistan. Even though the majority of the people of the then Pakistan spoke the language Bangla, the rulers of Pakistan who were mostly from West Pakistan wanted to make their language Urdu as the state language. It happened in 1952. This was a wake up call for the people of East Pakistan and it showed that the rulers of the country were totally biased towards the West Pakistan. So on 21st February, the people of East Pakistan protested vigorously and came out to the streets demanding that Bangla - the mother tongue of 65% of the population of Pakistan, should be the official state language. The rulers of the country ordered the police to fire on them and three martyrs gave their lives on that day. A temporary monument was erected the next day at the site and eventually replaced by a permanent one.
Since then the people of Bangladesh observe 21st February as the national language day. In 1971, on 25th March when the Pakistani armies attacked the people of East Pakistan, this monument was crushed to the ground by the Pakistani army. It was as if they could not stand it. The next day some brave souls put some flowers on that spot to show that the spirit is still alive. In 1971, on 16th of December when Bangladesh won the war of independence and became a free county, the construction began immediately for this monument and it was made larger keeping all the aspects proportional.
No where on this earth there exists such example of sacrifice and fight to speak in one's mother tongue. To make this known to the world a proposal was presented at the 30th General Conference of UNESCO and on September 17, 1999, UNESCO declared 21st February as the International Mother language Day for the people of the world therefore making the Shahid Minar as a global icon of sacrifice for the right to speak in one's mother tongue.