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Starting next month, Qatari men enrolled in the country’s new national service program will now spend four weeks embedded in the army as part of their training.

According to Al Raya, Qatar’s National Service Authority has decided to make significant changes to the way the three- to four-month period of training is conducted.

Brig. Nasser Abdul Rahman Al Jaber, deputy head of authority, told the newspaper that the focus would now be “more on military training than civilian aspects.”

Qatar’s Emir signed a mandatory conscription bill into law last year, requiring Qatari men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old to 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.

Apache helicopters

US Army

Apache helicopters

The changes come at a time when Qatar is spending heavily to bolster its defenses amid increasing instability in the region.

Starting in September, incoming cadets will be required to spend two months at the national service training camp in Al Shamal and one month embedded in the army to gain more experience with light weapons.

Their non-college counterparts meanwhile will spend four months at the Al Shamal camp in basic training, which will include an unspecified period of time attached to an army unit.

‘Tough regime’

Speaking before the launch of the national service program, Minister of State for Defense Maj. General Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah said that it would help make Qataris “ideal citizens.”

Recruits at the Al Shamal camp

Abdul Rahman Al Qahtani

Recruits at the Al Shamal camp

Last April, Qatar’s first batch of 2,000 national service recruits began their training.

The men – who had all signed up voluntarily – shared some of their experiences on social media, giving details of their simple meals, required supplies and the fact that they had to cut their hair short.

The Peninsula reports that the new daily curriculum at the Al Shamal camp would “continue to be tough, and training will begin right after pre-dawn prayers and last until late at night.”

Cadets will also attend lectures on Qatar’s history, culture, environment and society, as well as drug abuse and the importance of physical fitness.

Exemptions

Under the National Service Law, Qatari men currently studying and graduates of military colleges are exempted from the training.

Those who fail their medical and those who have no siblings are also not expected to enroll.

Female Qataris are also currently not required to enter the training, and suggestions that compulsory service for women would be introduced this year have so far not come to fruition.

Even if national service is introduced for women, it is likely that they would only be assigned social, cultural and medical roles, officials have previously suggested.

Qatari men who are not exempt and fail to sign up for military service or who do not respond to a summons to do so face up to a month in jail and a QR50,000 fine.

Thoughts?

Qatar’s first batch of recruits began their first day of mandatory national service training this morning at a temporary camp in Al Shamal.

The 2,000 enrollees were drafted into the military to be taught how to use certain types of weapons and military vehicles, after Qatar’s Emir signed legislation last month governing a new conscription law.

Under the new legislation, Qatari men between the ages of 18 and 35 years old must train with the country’s armed forces for three to four months.

The passage of Law No. 5 of 2014 came a month after the Ministry of Defense first began signing up trainees, and outlines tough penalties for those who try to dodge service.

Many in the local community have expressed enthusiastic support for the new legislation, saying it would infuse discipline into the young male population.

Other Qataris have called it “collective punishment” and complained of a confusing enlisting system.

Minister of State for Defense Maj. General Hamad bin Ali Al-Attiyah was quoted last month as saying that the service would help make Qataris “ideal citizens” and that there would be no exceptions, state news agency QNA reported.

However, since then, delays have been granted to students. And exemptions were okayed for graduates of military colleges, officials holding military ranks and men who are found physically unfit or are their families’ sole breadwinners.

First impressions

Speaking to Doha News, conscript Abdul Aziz Al Bakri, who is in the first batch of trainees, stated that “despite today’s overwhelming support, we weren’t pushed as we should have been.”

Al Bakri mentioned that today’s training comprised of an introduction to the daily schedule, routine exercises and familiarization with the camp and its surroundings.

On Twitter, recruits also shared details about their simple meals, required supplies and the fact that they had to get buzz cuts.

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According to a tweet posted by a recruiter, conscripts are required to stay permanently on camp premises for the first six weeks, and would then be allowed to leave on weekends only.

Reaction

Meanwhile, the larger Qatari community expressed enthusiasm as the conscription law took effect.

Under the hashtag #الخدمة_الوطنية_قطر (national service), several locals on Twitter said they saw today’s event as a golden opportunity for Qataris to serve their country with a new sense of patriotism and discipline.

Translation: “And tomorrow, a new (brick) is added to the rest, giving a true meaning to patriotism.”

Translation: “Qatar’s national service is a pride for every participant and strengthens the meaning of loving a country and is an expression of cohesion between the citizens and their leaders.”

A similar sentiment was echoed in interviews that Al Rayyan TV conducted last week:

At the time, conscript Yehia Al-Nuami told the channel:

“We need a culture of discipline, camaraderie and obedience. I believe we are in great need of that at the moment.”

However, several Qatari females have expressed feeling left out of the equation. On Twitter, some suggested that national service be made mandatory for them as well.

Translation: “I call for all those holding the Qatari document and sons of Qatari mothers to join the national service. Our sons and daughters are all part of this country.”

Female locals 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.

Meanwhile, in response to an April Fools’ Day fake news story by ILoveQatar.net stating that expats would also be required to enlist in Qatar’s Armed Forces – and could be awarded iPhones or No Objection Certificates (not both), several residents said they would be interested in doing so (to varying degrees of seriousness):

Law details

Qatari recruits will be required to 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.

As for those who are currently employed, they 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 previously 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.

Thoughts?

qatar military

US Department of Defense/Flickr

Qatar’s Emir has signed into law legislation governing the country’s new national service rules, which require male Qataris between the ages of 18 and 35 years old to train with the country’s armed forces for three to four months.

The passage of Law No. 5 of 2014 comes a month after the Ministry of Defense first began signing up trainees, and outlines tough penalties for those who try to dodge service.

But its provisions are also causing confusion and stress among some Qataris who are not sure how the system will work.

According to the Peninsula, during the first half of each year, the Ministry of Interior and/or the Supreme Council of Health will send the defense ministry a list of Qatari males who have reached the age of 18 years old. The ministry will then notify eligible citizens and tell them to sign up for service within 60 days.

It is not clear how or when the Qataris who sign up can find out more about the date their service begins.

In an email to Doha News, one Qatari working in the private sector expressed nervousness about the process:

“To be honest, I can’t tell if I’m supposed to enlist yet or not. It says we need to ‘report within 60 days to the authority concerned’ when we are over 18, and after the Ministry of Defense contacts us. But should I wait for them to contact me, or am I supposed to register even if I’m not entering the service immediately, or what exactly? None of it is very clear…”

He added, “I’m also a bit worried I’ll miss some deadline I’m not aware of and end up getting in trouble.”

Penalties

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.

Those who do not enroll in the national service program could serve from one month to one year in jail, and/or pay fines of QR20,000.

The Peninsula states that the one-month jail term applies to residents who present fake documents or have someone else go to the medical check-up in their place.

The newspaper continues:

“Anyone who deliberately causes injuries or other serious ailments in his body to skip the service and those who help or facilitate someone to escape from the service will also face similar punishment.

Those who delay joining the service until he crosses 35 will face jail for not more than one year and a fine of not more than QR50,000 or both. Those failing to report for the service in one month (if he is in Qatar) or in two months (if he is abroad) will face jail for not more than one month and QR5,000 fine or both.”

Men who do not undergo the mandatory national service would also not be eligible for jobs, or be granted a license to do business in Qatar.

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

However, the new law outlines some cases in which Qataris could be exempt from serving in the armed forces, including:

  • Students of military colleges or institutions who have graduated and completed their primary training;
  • Those who have been assigned the military rank after finishing the basic training period; and
  • Those who have been given an exemption according to public interest requirements or for national security considerations.

Delays can also be granted for “humanitarian considerations” if men are found physically unfit or are their families’ sole breadwinners.

April start

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.

Men who are employed would continue to receive their full salary while serving in the armed forces, and those without jobs would also be paid during training.

Qatari women are currently not required to enroll in the program, but may be subject to compulsory service starting next year. However, women would not have to pursue military training, but instead be assigned social, cultural and medical roles, officials said last month.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, the UAE is implementing similar legislation, 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.

Kuwait is also mulling a proposal about mandatory national service.

Thoughts?