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.
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.
— Abdulrahman Alsubaey (@aalsubaey) March 19, 2014
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.
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.”
يفتخر بها كل مشارك وتعزز معاني حب الوطن وتعبير عن تﻻحم المواطنين مع بعضهم وقيادتهم
— عبدالله جمعه المريخي (@ajmuraikhi) April 1, 2014
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.
— Hessa Althani (@Hessalthani) April 1, 2014
اطالب بضم اصحاب الوثائق القطرية وابناء القطريات الى #الخدمة_الوطنية_قطر. ابناءنا وبناتنا جزء من هذا الوطن.
ريتويت اذا كنت تؤيدني
— وثيقة سفر قطرية (@QatariTD) April 1, 2014
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):
— Abdulla M Awyusuf (@AbdullaTelecom) April 1, 2014
— Khalifa Al Haroon – Mr. Q (@iloveqatar) April 1, 2014
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.