The relief I felt after the good news mentioned in my previous post was unfortunately short-lived. British Gas does indeed still refuse to confirm Meryem Mehdi’s reintegration in a written document. The company even insists that it won’t make any move since the issue is taken before the court.
In the meantime, Meryem Mehdi is on her 54th day of hunger strike and is in the worst possible shape. She stopped taking her medication three days ago and enters often into coma state. This source tells us that hunger strikers would die between their 52nd and 74th days, and it is obvious that Meryem Mehdi has already reached a very serious condition.
British Gas’s decision is not only the arrogant answer of a powerful global company to weak Meryem Mehdi, but it should also be viewed as a slap in the face of Mr. Louh, who announced the good news, and his government.
It is actually more than that and the case is bigger than just British Gas and Meryem Mehdi. It proves that the politicians have little control, if any, over the big multinationals (is it really a surprise?), and the very sensitive and state-controlled field of oil exploitation is no exception. Orascom, Arcelor Mittal, Cojaal and other foreign companies can be used as a good illustration.
But is this situation hopeless? I personally doubt it.
The Algerian authorities’ reactions ranged from ignoring Meryem Mehdi through having some MPs defending her case and finally to Mr. Louh’s declarations. These reactions were of course not enough.
Multinationals anywhere in the world engage in power relationships and test the authorities. When the same companies relatively “behave” in the West, it is not because they are naturally good or because they care about the citizens of their original countries (does this concept still exist?), but rather because they face states which, despite the various involved interests and the lobbies’ activities, force them to make some concessions. And this power relationship is continuous and relentless.
The Algerian authorities’ reactions made it clear to British Gas that they lacked determination and sounded more like a “Debber raskoum, qilouni. I don’t want to hear nor see this woman”. Meryem Mehdi is abandoned by the Algerian state that is unable to face its responsibilities. Our rulers prefer ignoring the problems and only want to enjoy the 4th place of our NT in this year’s CAN.
Now what to do next? Are we just going to watch Meryem Mehdi die?
Her support committee will organise a demonstration tomorrow before the ministry of energy and mining. But the officials in the building are probably busy trying to save their careers or crush others’ careers in Sonatrach’s new scandal.
It is important for Meryem Mehdi and for all of us that the Algerian state finally takes its responsibilities and shows to British Gas that Meryem Mehdi’s life is important, that any Algerian’s life is important. They have to negotiate and find a satisfactory solution (I always believed that Mehdi’s reintegration wasn’t the best solution for her).
It is also important for everyone else to spread this information. We know companies only move to protect their interests, and they usually like to display the image of humane and responsible entities. I am convinced of the bad effect this information will have if it ever reaches the final consumers of British Gas in the West.