National service for Emirati men becomes law

Emiratis have welcomed the fast-tracking of a federal law requiring young Emirati men to sign up for military service, saying it will foster greater national unity and pride and help boost the UAE’s strong presence in the region.

UAE national service for all Emirati men became law on Saturday. Sammy Dallal / The National
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ABU DHABI // National service for all young Emirati men officially became law on Saturday.

The landmark legislation, first announced in January, was fast-tracked through the FNC by March. It has now been signed by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and published in the Official Gazette.

It requires every Emirati man aged between 18 and 30 to sign up for military service. Young women may volunteer.

Those who have finished secondary school will serve for nine months. Those who have not are required to serve two years.

Service may be carried out in the Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior and the State Security Authority.

“It’s a great law in this day and age,” said Ali Abdullah, 29, an Emirati entrepreneur who has three younger brothers aged 14, 17 and 20. “I’m from the 1980s generation but a lot of the younger Emiratis are way too spoiled.

“We’ve been given a lot of entitlements and appear sometimes to live in a bubble.

“It’s not only about giving back but enlisting in the military will make the young stronger. Nine months of military service will also help Emiratis to lose weight, toughen them up and cut down the incidence of diabetes.”

Khalid Al Jarman, 28, third secretary at the UAE embassy in London, said: “Passing the national services and reserve law is indeed a very good step. It will strengthen our military presence in the Middle East especially with all the turmoil happening in the region.

“I believe this is a necessary step for young Emiratis to give them a sense of patriotism and loyalty to their country.”

Mr Al Jarman, who is chief of protocol and national affairs at the embassy, said: “The military exercises will teach us how to be tough and prepare us to handle potential threats.”

To carry out their national service, young Emiratis must have a record of good conduct and be medically fit to serve. Those who do not meet the conditions will carry out administrative, civil and technical jobs according to their capabilities.

Those who are not medically fit will be exempt. Alternative service does not include military training, spending a night in a camp or the use of weapons.

University and college students will be allowed to complete their education, and begin national service after they graduate.

All workplaces, whether government or private, will be required to allow Emirati employees time to complete their service, without risking their jobs. The employee may be replaced temporarily, but must be given the same job upon return.

Salaries, allowances, bonuses, pensions or other rights and privileges will continue to be paid. Entrepreneurs and skilled workers undergoing military service will receive a monthly bonus.

The General Headquarters of the Armed Forces will provide initial training.

There are exemptions from national service for only sons, and temporary exemption for a son who is the sole breadwinner for a parent, brothers and sisters or an unmarried sister.

National service may be postponed in times of peace for students who are under 29, those who finish secondary school with a grade higher than 90 per cent, or those who have not yet finished secondary school. Only one postponement is permitted, and those who use it must still complete military service later, even if they are over 30.

More details on the new law are expected to be announced on Monday.