Over 90 percent Yemenis favor anti-terrorism law, says survey [Archives:2008/1208/Local News]

November 17 2008

Mahmoud Assamiee
SANA'A, Nov. 12 ) The Yemeni Polling Center's opinion poll over terrorism conducted last October shows that 94 percent of Yemenis favor an anti-terrorism law.

The poll, conducted on a sample of 400 persons, male and female, from seven governorates- Sana'a, Aden, Taiz, Hadramout, Mareb, Sa'ada, Dhalea- aims at determining attitudes towards enacting a law for fighting terror, highway attack crimes and kidnapping.

It also aims to examine to what extent Yemenis know what terrorism is and their opinion over penalties and measures against terrorists.

Although most people included in the survey were educated and some of them have higher degrees, only 42 percent of them know about terrorism. This percentage defines terrorism as killing, sabotaging, targeting the innocent, bombings, assassinations and violence.

When asked about the most important problem in Yemen, interviewees mentioned four pressing problems before terrorism, which came fifth in the survey. The high cost of living was the first concern for 23 percent, while poverty was most important for 20 percent of those interviewed. Up to13 percent of those surveyed pointed to the economy as the main obstacle facing Yemen's development, 10 percent chose unemployment, but only 7.5 percent cited security and terrorism.

Head of the Yemeni Polling Center Hafez al-Bukari told the Yemen Times that the results were produced by interviewing Yemenis and asking them what they thought the first problem facing Yemen was. They were given no options to choose from and their answers reflected their own experiences.

Corruption, which is one of the greatest problems in Yemen, ranked sixth with only 6.25 percent of respondents considering it a problem. These results, said al-Bukari, reflect people's unawareness of corruption.

In Sa'ada, the war torn governorate that is suffering the consequences of consecutive wars between Houthi rebels and the army, 30 percent out of 39 participants in the survey cited security and terrorism as Yemen's first problem. The widespread presence of arms was pointed to by 28 percent, while the country's image was designated by 12.8 percent.

Al-Bukari attributed this great difference to the unique situation of Sa'ada where most people think only about peace. Their ideas reflect the situation they live in, he said.

Seventy-five percent of those interviewed in the seven governorates affirmed their fear of terrorism in Yemen, while only 6.25 percent did not consider it to be an important problem.

However, the ratio decreases to 70 percent for those who are ready to cooperate with the government to fight terrorism. Of those interviewed, 21.5 percent said they were not ready to cooperate.

Unlike in governorates like Sana'a where terrorist acts have been more common, in the more stable governorates of Taiz, Aden and Hadramout, the ratio of interviewed people who were ready to stand with the government for fighting terror decreased. Eighty six percent of those surveyed in Sana'a said they were ready to cooperate with the government, while only 36.4 percent said so in Aden.

Although most of the population sampled did not know exactly what international treaties against terrorism signed by Yemen entailed, 70 percent of them supported the latter and considered them to be dealing with terrorism and fighting it.

Al-Bukari explained that the survey aimed to evaluate Yemenis' knowledge of such treaties and their support for them. According to him, the results reflected the extent to which they understand the law.

With regards to measures to be taken against Yemeni terrorists, the survey focused on penalties against those who lead gangs for kidnapping, blocking roads or vandalism. Sixty seven percent of those interviewed supported execution, while 14 percent supported life imprisonment.

As for penalties to be taken against foreign terrorists, 49 percent of the sample supported prosecuting foreign terrorists in Yemen as terrorists of Yemeni origin, while 14 percent support handing him over to authorities in his country.

When interviewed about suitable methods for dealing with kidnappers, 47 percent supported negotiation with kidnappers before military action against them, while 24 percent supported direct military force, and only 3 percent preferred tribal customs as a solution for settling matters with them.

According to Al-Bukari, this survey, conducted after an increase in terrorist acts in Yemen, aimed to know to what extent Yemenis need a law to protect them against terror.

He said that a demographically representative sample was selected in order to achieve clearer results and better analyze the data.