ABU DHABI // The UAE will introduce mandatory military service for all Emirati men aged between 18 and 30, it was announced on Sunday.
And the President, Sheikh Khalifa, has ordered Cabinet to draw up a bill for a new national defence and reserve force.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, revealed details of the law on Twitter.
It will require all men who have finished secondary school or are aged between 18 and 30 to undergo military training.
The training will be optional for women.
“Today, I headed a Cabinet meeting where we started with procedures directed to us by the President with passing a law on national services and reserve,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.
"The new law aims to put together a new national defence in order to protect the homeland and its borders and its resources and gains."
Sheikh Mohammed said the training would include military exercises, and those enlisted in the Armed Forces would receive additional security training.
Emiratis who had finished secondary school will have to serve nine months, while those who had not will serve two years.
The reserves will consist of those who have completed their national service and military personnel who have finished their time in the Armed Forces.
“Protecting the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted. “The new law will apply to everyone.
“Grounds of the Armed Forces are the fields of men and service there is an honour, and graduating from there is heroic, and our youth are the protectors of the nation, and its shield, and on them falls the responsibility of defending its soil.
“Our message to the world is a message of peace; the stronger we are, the stronger our message.”
The bill will now be passed to the FNC for debate.
Once passed, those eligible will have to report to authorities to determine their service status.
Working Emiratis will not be exempt. While serving in the military, time will be added to end of service and pension benefits.
All training will be held at Armed Forces centres.
Ali Jassim, an FNC member from Umm Al Quwain, said the law was long overdue.
“We wanted this to be imposed a long time ago,” Mr Jassim said. “However, now is also a good time. It is an honour to anyone who serves in it.”
He said many had welcomed the news since it was announced.
“It is vital that the youth know what is meant here by military service,” Mr Jassim said.
“It will give a person new skills, learn how to use a weapon, how to defend themselves and how to play an active role during any disaster.”
He said the main purpose of the military service was to “bolster the homefront”.
Fellow FNC member Sultan Al Sammahi (Fujairah) said it was important for young people to be trained in how to defend themselves.
“This emanates from the love for the nation,” Mr Al Sammahi said. “We as a nation do not view this as a new law, but a boost for the nation, a chance to answer back to the leaders and the country’s call.
“We are all today responsible for the country’s security and protecting it.”
Dr Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in Ras Al Khaimah, said the law could have an educational benefit.
Dr Ridge said reduced service time for those who finished high school could lower already declining rates of school dropouts.
She said most recent figures revealed that up to 15 per cent of male Emiratis dropped out of secondary education, compared with 2 per cent among females.
“This law would encourage some to stay on and provide others planning to leave school early with a work opportunity,” Dr Ridge said.
She said one disadvantage that could arise, as it did in Singapore, was that women would have a nine-month head start at higher education, giving them an advantage in the labour market.
Qatar took a similar step in November, approving an imposing compulsory military service on men between the ages of 18 and 35.
Tours of duty would be three months for university graduates, and four for others.