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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Emiratis back extension of compulsory national military service term 

The hashtag "national service is a national duty" trended as Emiratis express willingness to "serve and defend" country 

Armed Forces members attend the graduation ceremony of the eighth cohort of national service recruits last year at Zayed Military City. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi 
Armed Forces members attend the graduation ceremony of the eighth cohort of national service recruits last year at Zayed Military City. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi 

Emiratis have expressed strong support following Sunday's announcement that the term of the UAE's compulsory national military service is to be extended from 12 to 16 months.

Patriots, who believe that it is a necessary move to better prepare recruits to defend the country, expressed their readiness to "serve and defend their country" and the Twitter hashtag "national service is a national duty" began to trend.

"Serving the nation is a great honour," said Hassan Sajwan, an Emirati writer on current affairs, counter-terrorism, technology and business.

"I think the extension to national service is a great message to our youth. It highlights the strong belief in the abilities that our leadership has in young Emirati men and women today."

He also said that the response from young Emiratis had been largely "very positive, especially if there is a plan to expand the variety of the training that a young recruit goes through".

Compulsory national service for all Emirati men aged between 18 and 30 was introduced in 2014. Women of the same age group can volunteer, as can men aged between 30 and 40.

The newly lengthened military duty applies to young men who hold a secondary high school certificate and above, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces said on Sunday.

FNC member for Dubai and engineer Azza Sulaiman said: “Our nation has offered a modern national service that has further enhanced its role in the hearts of everyone.

“This has become evident as our countrymen have achieved many victories in defending the oppressed and supporting our brothers in Yemen.

"The extension of the national service is a wise decision as it will engage participants in a longer training period at a school that is deemed the nation’s defender and the maker of our military men.”

University and college students are permitted to complete their education before they begin national service, and all workplaces are required to allow Emiratis to complete their term without risking their jobs. Employees can be replaced temporarily, but they must be given the same job once they return.

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

National service has been credited with a 75 per cent fall in crimes committed by young Emiratis in the three years following its introduction.

The most dramatic change was in the number of fights or assaults among those aged between 18 and 30 that led to death or disability.

Sixty-one cases were reported between 2014 to 2017, which was down from 274 in the three years before national service was introduced.

At the time, Dherar Al Falasi, general director of Watani Al Emarat, a social development programme to promote national identity and good citizenship, told The National that serving in the forces had helped many young people get their lives in order.

“Many Emiratis had a problem with time management, and by training them and introducing them to these programmes, it breaks their bad habits,” he said.

“They are also more aware of how to manage their time. It not only reduces crime rates but many other things in the community.”

Samia Ahmed, 43, told The National that before national service, she never saw her brother.

"When he went to do his national service, I believe that he missed us and understood the importance of family and responsibility," she said.

Previously her brother had been constantly "hanging out with his friends," but after national service, he had "matured".

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Emirati men aged 30 to 40 can volunteer for national service

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"I see room for further improvement, which is why it is necessary to extend the national service."

Nabeela Al Yafee's eldest son has completed his national service and now her middle son is three months away from completing his. The extension does not apply to him as he has complected nine months of training.

"I wouldn't mind if they extended my son's national service, too. Yes, we do miss him dearly and want him home with us, but this extension wouldn't have been introduced if the leadership had not studied it and found it to be necessary,"

Mrs Al Yafee said the four-month extension is "a great decision that is welcomed by all parents and Emiratis" and that it will mean better prepared soldiers.

"It is the least we can do for our country and if four months, or 10 months, or another year will mean that [the soldiers] are more prepared to defend and protect the UAE, then we would gladly send them to national service."