Hundreds thronged recruitment centres in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, the Western Region and Sharjah to register for compulsory military service. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Hundreds of young Emiratis on Sunday thronged recruitment centres in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, the Western Region and Sharjah to register for compulsory military service.

Registration for Emirati men will last until July 17.

Emirati women who have finished secondary school this academic year are invited to sign up for national service from July 20 to 24.

Upbeat Emiratis said they were extremely happy to sign up for national service, which they said will strengthen patriotism and national identity among them.

“We are making history as we join the national service as the first exemplary batch, which is a big achievement and a matter of honour for us all,” said Ganem Al Junaibi of Emirates Private School.

Mohammad Khalfan Al Katbi echoed similar sentiments and said military service would instil loyalty and a sense of belonging in the country’s youth and cultivate a spirit of discipline and sacrifice to enable them to serve their country in all areas in the best possible way.

“Military service is an honour and sacred duty, which will help young citizens to rely on themselves and be prepared for defending our beloved country,” Al Katbi said.

Some 7,000 citizens, comprising the first batch of Emirati recruits, will be called up for national service by the beginning of September.

President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan approved the law introducing mandatory military service for all Emiratis aged between 18 and 30 last month.

Under the law, Emirati men who have finished secondary school will have to undergo military training for nine months, while those who have not will serve two years. The service will be optional for women, who may be trained for nine months after permission from their guardians, regardless of their education.

Saeed Al Efari said he was extremely happy and he could not sleep on Saturday night as he was looking forward to signing up so much.

Hamad Saleh Al Sa’ari said he was looking forward to the skills he would acquire through military service.

“We, young Emiratis, will approach tasks and jobs in the civilian world with the same self-discipline and we will contribute to the progress and prosperity our beloved nation,” Al Sa’ari said.

Loyalty to nation

Staff Major General Pilot Shaikh Ahmad Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of National Service, said national service will mould Emirati youth into responsible citizens, reiterating that defending the nation and preserving its independence and sovereignty is a sacred national duty for every citizen.

He said patriotism and loyalty to the nation is their first and foremost duty. “You will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. Through military discipline, our youth will gain physical strength, endurance, knowledge, and spirit.”

Part of the military service will require military training and exercises, as well as lectures on patriotism.

Shaikh Ahmad called on young Emiratis to be ready to lead by example as discipline becomes a major part of their life, carries them through their time of military service and helps tremendously in their civilian life.

The law states that citizens who complete mandatory military service will enjoy a range of benefits, including priority for jobs in government institutions and private businesses, marriage grants, housing plots and scholarships. Citizens who join illegal organisations will be disqualified from the service, the legislation said.

Citizens who fail to enlist for military service without a valid reason until they reach the age of 29 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 military service even if they exceed the age limit of 30.

The law states that citizens working in the federal government, local and private sectors who meet the law’s provisions will enrol in the national service. For recruits who are appointed in federal departments, local departments, and the private sector, their national service will be counted as service in these departments and sectors.

The new batch who will join the national service at the beginning of September will be drawn from across the emirates in line with the criteria set by the Armed Forces, according to Dr Ali Al Khoury, director-general of the Emirates Identity Authority.