Thoughts around the case of Meryem Mehdi

Elkhabar and Echourouk reported today a declaration by the Algerian minister of labour, Mr. Louh, saying that British Gas finally accepted to reintegrate Miss Meryem Mehdi in her earlier position. I didn’t see the information elsewhere and I hope it will be confirmed soon.

I must say that I feared to hear of the death of Miss Mehdi as she’s at her 41st day of hunger strike, that she’s lost half of her weight, and that she’s apparently suffering from asthma, anaemia and diabetes.  And I kept wondering when the Algerian authorities and British Gas thought it was time to take care of her.

Mehdi’s case proves once more that the Algerian state with most of its institutions cares so little about the citizens’ security and welfare. But it also proves that when a person is tenacious and with the civil society’s support (SNAPAP and LADDH supported Miss Mehdi from the beginning), it is possible to win the most difficult and hopeless cases.

But is it normal to resort to hunger strikes and put one’s life at stake every time someone’s wronged? Are laws and justice not supposed to be there for this purpose?

I remember Abu Bakr Siddiq’s words after his election as the first Muslim caliphate:

“I have been given the authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God wills; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God wills. Obey me so long as I obey God and His Messenger. But if I disobey God and His Messenger, ye owe me no obedience.”

This short declaration summarises the most important principles which are missing in Algeria and in many other countries (western states included).

Our rulers think that they govern us because they’re simply the best, and they believe in an even bigger lie: that there’s nobody fit to replace them and they’re sacrificing their lives for our sake. This is probably why Bouteflika decided to change the constitution so that he could run for a third mandate. It also probably explains why Bouteflika keeps his ministers in charge despite their failures and related scandals. He probably thinks he has the best men in hand and the population is just useless.

This belief means it is impossible for the population to criticize the rulers’ actions. Who are they to do so? And how could perfect men be criticized anyway? But since the people are so dumb and dare criticize, the only solution is to force them into silence and launch propaganda and self-congratulation tools to make a bigger noise .
One example would be the way the police beat and insulted some of the SNAPAP’s members who gathered before the ministry of labour to show their support for Meryem Mehdi. Another example would be the fact the ENTV never mentioned Miss Mehdi’s case and would probably deny her very existence. And it is interesting to compare the ENTV’s behaviour with the way it dealt with Aminatou Haidar‘s case (I of course don’t mean she deserved to be ignored as I support her and her peoples’ right for self-determination).

The third point is about power. Power calls power and money calls money as the saying goes, and money is power. So today, anyone having the smallest responsibility cares so much about the wealthy among the population because they’re key in the responsible’s plan to gain more money and power. Nobody cares anymore about the poor and the weak. Even the leaders of the UGTA  forgot their mission and didn’t really care about Meryem Mehdi. And this is neither the first nor the last time actually as seen in the recent episodes in Rouiba.

And the last point is about the population’s right to choose and dismiss their leaders. Here we only have to list the Algerian leaders (state, political parties, organisations, etc.) and their appointment dates to understand that any appointment or election is apparently a life-long position. So why would the rulers work for their people since they are not accountable?!

Anyway, Meryem Mehdi’s case has at least shed more light on the situation of the Algerian workers in foreign oil companies but not only. Many employees suffer in Algeria and their rights are rarely respected. And it is important to remember that most of  the multinationals don’t bother follow the laws and the regulations until they are forced to; and it’s the states’ job to make sure these companies abide by the rules.
The ministry of labour finally decided to appoint a commission to investigate the Algerians’ work conditions in the South, but commissions are usually set-up as a way to bury the investigation subjects.

According to the above newspapers, Meryem Mehdi’s representative declared that she won’t stop her strike before she receives an official written document confirming her reintegration. I am not sure this reintegration is the best solution for her as I can hardly imagine a normal working environment with her direct and non-direct managers. But let’s for now celebrate the good news which mean that she can stop her hunger strike, but we must not forget that she was one of 250 employees fired by British Gas and nobody talked about them.

Another reading of Meryem Mehdi’s case can be found in BentAljazair’s blog.

Activists demonstrating before the ministry of labour (source SNAPAP)

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts around the case of Meryem Mehdi

  1. I agree with your points about governance MnarviDZ, but I am convinced that democracy is dead and burried, well past its sell-by date (I include the West in this statement). Fresh political thinking is required, radical thinking.

    I really believe that we have democracy in Algeria and it is destroying us. Our leaders believe they are the best and the population is useless you say, and so what? Don’t all leaders end up believing that? It is human nature and any political thinking must factor in the corruptive nature of money and power. No use saying they should be strong and honest bla bla bla. Who knows what any of us moralisers would have done in their situation?

    I personally believe that our people are useless, the brain drain has really damaged this country and even those abroad I fear have been irreversibly damaged by countless disappointments and frustrations caused by the incompetence of the rulers.

    However, the most likely place change will come from remains algerian people who are living here in Algeria. I don’t know what will trigger the declic however, hard to tell.

    • Like I said in the post, the points I mentioned are also missing in the West so I agree on most of what you said, including/especially the last one.

      However, I don’t think democracy is correctly implemented in many Western countries, so I am surprised to read your “we have democracy in Algeria”. The system in Algeria can be confusing at times but I can hardly mistake it for a democracy!

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