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ARABIAN PENINSULA: Majority of Persian Gulf Arabs too afraid to protest against their leaders, new poll says

June 25, 2011 |  8:56 am

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e5fc3d324970c-320wi Many Persian Gulf Arabs are frightened and pessimistic about the uprisings and revolutions that are sweeping the Middle East and are too afraid to speak out against their rulers.

According to a new opinion poll commissioned by the Qatar-based public forum The Doha Debates, that's the current mood among many gulf Arabs.

The online study, conducted by YouGov in June in which over 1,000 respondents were polled in 17 different Arab states, said an increasing number of gulf Arabs view the so-called Arab Spring with pessimism and fear. 

And more than more half of those polled in countries in the Arabian Peninsula said they would be be "too scared" to go out in the streets and protest against their leaders.

In March, a group of Emirati activists and intellectuals sent a petition to the president of the seven-sheikhdom federation the United Arab Emirates, calling on him to allow direct elections and grant legislative powers to the parliament. The move prompted the arrest and detention of several of the signatories by security forces, according to media reports.

The feeling among pollsters in the gulf Arab countries contrasted sharply with respondents in other parts of the Middle East, especially North Africans, who expressed far more optimism, according to the study.

Seventy percent of North Africans polled said they felt that they were about to enter "a new era in the Arab world."

Again, optimism was highest in North Africa, the area where the uprisings began, on the question of whether the "current movement" will make the Arab world a more democratic place. Eighty-five percent of respondents there said they believed that Arab countries would be democratic states in five years.

On the question of whether "foreign conspiracies" are helping push the revolutions across the Arab world, the opinion was split. Several regimes, including those in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain have claimed that foreign elements and conspiracies are fueling uprisings.

The majority of North Africans disagreed with the view, with more than 60% saying that they believed the uprisings and revolutions were mainly "organic" and started at home. Overall, the majority of respondents said they believed domestic issues such as unemployment and economic demands were the main drivers behind the revolutions. 

Trust in the media, however, was low overall among most respondents polled throughout the region, with the majority saying none of the pan-Arab or international broadcasters can be trusted for accurate information.

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-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: A giant image of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, left, and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, UAE president, plastered on a tower in Dubai in March. Credit: Voice of America website.

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