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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Half of eligible Kuwaitis have failed to register for compulsory military service

The head of the country's military service authority said on Tuesday that draft-dodgers would face a series of punitive measures to 'pressure' them into signing up

Kuwaiti troops show off their skills during a military show in Kuwait City on February 28, 2011. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP
Kuwaiti troops show off their skills during a military show in Kuwait City on February 28, 2011. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP

Half of the 2,300 Kuwaiti men eligible for military service since a law making it compulsory went into effect in May have failed to register and measures will be taken to punish the dodgers, the head of the country's military service authority has said.

Major General Ibrahim Salem Al Omairi said on Tuesday that those who failed to register for the draft would face a series of punitive measures to "pressure" them into signing up.

Men between the ages of 18 to 35 were given two months from May 10 to register for a mandatory 12-month period of military service. Some Kuwaitis were exempt from registering under the 2015 law, including only sons, those with higher education degrees and those suffering from mental or physical health issues.

“We are dealing with a supreme order, a supreme call, to national service and those refusing to heed the call will confront the full application of the law and punitive measures,” said Maj Gen Al Omairi to the state Kuwait News Agency, or Kuna.

As a first punitive measure, the government will not issue any official paperwork to draft-dodgers — meaning, among other things, that they will not be able to enrol for university or vocational training — and they will be blocked from receiving government benefits, including health care, a source told The National.

Draft-dodgers will also face having their military service extended and being barred from travelling or working, according to the law. In cases of persistent dodging, the ministry of interior will sentence Kuwaitis to three years in jail and a 10,000 Kuwaiti dinar fine (Dh120,000).

“You basically can’t do anything” if you fail to register for military service, said one Kuwaiti man who has registered but has yet to be called up.

“You’re basically just sitting at home. Eventually, the pressure will bring them to do so (register),” added the man, who asked to be named only by his initials, MK.

Another Kuwaiti who had registered for national service said he was proud to serve his nation and even went so far as to say that it would be “a great experience”.

Other Kuwaitis, however, believe military service should not be mandatory and that the forcing of youth into such service could deter the development of teenagers with talents in other areas.

The Kuwaiti constitution stipulates that “defence of the country is a sacred duty”, and will be “regulated by the law”.

In line with the constitution, military service was compulsory in Kuwait from 1980 until 2002, when it was suspended so that legislation on the issue could be revised to help the country better meet its modern-day needs. Agreement on revisions could not be reached until 2015, however, when new legislation making military service once again compulsory was signed into law.

It meant Kuwait joined the UAE and Qatar as the only Gulf countries with mandatory national service. It was introduced by the UAE and Doha in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

Both the UAE and Qatar have failed to release figures for draft-dodgers, saying only that measures have been put in place for those who fail to adhere to their laws on national service.

Over the next year, 13,000 Kuwaitis eligible for military service are expected to turn 18. Once drafted, recruits will undergo four months of boot camp followed by eight months of military service.

Military personnel in Kuwait currently numbers around 30,000. The armed forces have a budget of approximately US$15 billion (Dh55bn).

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