Mandatory National Service in United Arab Emirates

A law introducing mandatory military service for all Emiratis aged between 18 and 30 and setting up a new national defense and reserve force has been endorsed by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Emirati men who have finished secondary school or aged between 18-30 will have to serve a year and 4 months, while those who have not will serve three years. The service will be optional for women, who may be trained for nine months, regardless of their education, according to the law.

The law, which will be enforced six months from the date of publishing in the official gazette, states that citizens who complete the mandatory military service will enjoy a range of benefits, including priority for taking up jobs in government institutions and private businesses, marriage grants, housing plots and scholarships, according to the draft law. Citizens who join illegal organisations will be disqualified from the service, the legislation said.

Citizens who fail to enlist for military service without valid reason until they reach 29 years of age will face a jail term of between one month and a year, or a fine ranging between Dh10,000 and Dh50,000 or both. They will have to undergo the military service even if they exceed the age limit of 30.

Executive rules will spell out alternative services and security training where these services can be offered and terms for exemption from military service for medical or other reasons.

A committee of the Federal National Council suggested achievers who have finished secondary school and scored 90 per cent be allowed to complete their studies before joining the national service.

The law as proposed by the government set 90 per cent marks as a condition for delaying the duty until a student gets a higher degree.

The law will require all men who have finished secondary school or aged between 18-30 to undergo military service. The service will be optional for women.

Working Emiratis will not be exempt and, while serving in the military, time will be added to their end-of-service and pension benefits. Federal, and local departments as well as private sector businesses will be obliged to allow their Emirati workers to enlist for military service. They also have to keep their jobs or similar jobs open for them once they complete the service. The training will be optional for women.

However, citizens who fail to join the military and reserve service will face up to 10 years in prison, according to a draft law passed by the Cabinet in January.

The Federal National Council suggested that a tougher penalty of up to 15 years in prison be imposed on offenders found guilty of attempting to avoid military and reserve duty.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said after the Cabinet passed the law national service would include military exercises, and those enlisted in the Armed Forces would receive additional security training, stressing that protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty.

Those eligible will have to report to authorities to determine their service status. The sole son of a family and medically unfit citizens would benefit from an exemption to military service. Those who sustain their parents or disabled siblings and those serving jail terms would benefit from a temporary exemption. Once the reason for temporary exemption is over, those people have to report to the authorities to undergo the military service.

Military service may be completed at the UAE Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the State Security Service and other institutions identified by the deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The reserves will consist of those who have completed their national service and military personnel who have finished their time in the Armed Forces.

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