In a move designed to bolster the country’s defense force, the Qatari cabinet has approved a draft law requiring all Qatari men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve in the country’s armed forces for at least three months.
This would be the first such legislation in the country. According to the draft, conscription requirements vary based education level. Male graduates with two- or four-year college or university degrees would only have to serve three months. However, high school graduates who don’t pursue higher education and high school dropouts would be required to serve four months.
According to QNA, the country’s official news agency, three categories of men will be required to serve with the army for the longer period:
1. Those who did not enroll in schools, universities, colleges or medium and high institutes and those who did not complete their study thereat.
2. Those who entered, but did not finish, high school after completing the age of 21.
3. Each student who has been dismissed from study at colleges or higher or intermediate institutes or its equivalent or did not graduate after reaching the prescribed age.
The law also includes an exception for some recruits to be allowed to work “in other institutions” during their period of service, suggesting that some men may be allowed to remain in their current roles in government ministries rather than taking part in active military service.
According to QNA, the government has decided to introduce the law to “achieve the interests of the defense of the homeland, and constant readiness to maintain the security and stability of the country.”
It adds that the country aims to have a regular army, “strongly enhanced by a reserve force when required.”
Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at London-based policy institute Chatham House who is studying MENA issues, said:
Military service seems a response to several Gulf concerns – youth unemployment and discipline as well as the overt signal about security
— Jane Kinninmont (@janekinninmont) November 14, 2013
The draft law was first discussed by the Cabinet in August. No time frame for the introduction of compulsory military service has been given, and the Emir must give the legislation official approval before it becomes law .
The draft does not make any mention of plans to conscript Qatari women into the armed forces.
At least one other Gulf country has discussed conscription following the Arab spring revolutions. Kuwait is currently mulling over a return to compulsory military service for men aged 18 to 35 years old.