Mandatory military service sign-up for Qatari men to begin on Sunday (Dohanews, 20/02/2014)

Acting quickly on a new law that requires male Qataris between the ages of 18 and 35 years old to serve in the country’s armed forces, the Ministry of Defense has announced plans to open registration for trainees on Sunday, Feb. 23.

Training is expected to begin with the first batch of enrollees – estimated at around 2,000 men – on April 1, in a temporary camp in Al Shamal. There, recruits will be taught how to use certain types of weapons and military vehicles.

More permanent grounds are expected to be established soon, government officials said at a press conference yesterday.

Qatari women are currently not required to enroll in the program, but may be subject to compulsory service starting next year, said Major General Mubarak Mohammad Al Kumait Al Khayarin, Commander of the Qatar Emiri Air Force and Head of National Service, according to QNA.

Al Khayarin added, however, that women would not have to pursue military training, but instead be assigned social, cultural and medical roles.

Law details

The conscription law gained Cabinet approval in November, but it is unclear when the Advisory Council gave its nod, or when the Emir ratified the legislation.

At the press conference, officials said a national service law would be issued soon and address any questions about the conscription process, including exemptions and delays.

Under the law, men must train in the military for at least three months if they are college graduates, and four months if they have high school diplomas or have dropped out of school. Those enrolled in university can delay conscription until after graduation.

Men who are employed would continue to receive their full salary while serving in the armed forces, and those without jobs would be paid an amount that has yet to be determined, Al Khayarin said.

According to the Gulf Times, once the training period is finished, nationals would be subject to two phases of reserves. The first would continue for around five to 10 years, with the recall period being no longer than 14 days.

The second reserve phase would last until the recruit becomes 40 years old, with the length of service depending on demand.

When the law was first discussed, the government said the aim was to “achieve the interests of the defense of the homeland, and constant readiness to maintain the security and stability of the country.”

Yesterday, QNA reported Minister of State for Defense Maj. General Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah as saying that service would help make Qataris “ideal citizens” and that there would be no exceptions.

However, local media reports indicate that those who do not pass their medical exams, who don’t have other male siblings and others could be exempt from serving in the armed forces.

However, the non-exempt who fail to sign up for military service and “age out” of the requirement could face up to a year in jail and a QR50,000 fine.

Ambivalence

Reaction from the Qatari community to the new law appears to be mixed. Speaking to Doha News, a 32-year-old national who preferred to only be quoted by his first name said he thought the legislation was a positive step forward for Qatar. According to Mohammed:

“The country faces a lot of challenges ahead and they need reserves ready to be called when needed. Also, they are looking I guess to tackle some health issues, (including) obesity.”

Mohammed, who works in the private sector, added that reserve forces could prove helpful in securing Qatar during the 2022 World Cup. However, he said timing matters, and that he hopes to be accepted with the first batch of trainees.

“I have plans to do my Master’s degree by the end of this year, and maybe marriage soon, so I’d rather finish now so i (am not) preoccupied,” he said.

Other Qataris are less excited about serving. One new university graduate called the mandatory service “a major disruption” that was essentially a “form of collective punishment” for the lack of discipline exercised by some young men here.

“It will do nothing to make Qataris better at their jobs, and will put them months behind. And there is pretty much no national security benefit,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Kuwait has been mulling a return to compulsory military service for men aged 18 to 35 years old.

And last month, the UAE passed a similar measure, announcing compulsory military service for Emirati men aged 18 to 30 years old, to serve from nine months to two years. The service would be optional for women.

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