(AFP) – Qatar is introducing national service for women for the first time while extending the time served in the military by conscripted men, under a law issued by the country’s Emir.
Women aged over 18 will be able to volunteer for national service under the law, which comes into immediate affect, while men will now serve a year instead of three months, state media said on Thursday.
“Every Qatari male between 18 and 35… is required to perform a compulsory military service,” the Qatar News Agency said.
“National service for females is voluntary,” it added.
Sources with knowledge of the matter said it was the first time women had been allowed to undertake national service, although some women already serve in the military in administrative roles.
It is not yet known what roles those women volunteering for national service would undertake.
The decision to extend the rules surrounding conscription, first introduced in November 2013, comes with Qatar at the centre of deepening diplomatic Gulf crisis, which turned 10 months old on Thursday.
Since June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of bankrolling Islamist extremists and fostering ties with Saudi’s arch-rival Iran.
Qatar, which rejects the accusations, has claimed the group of boycotting countries considered military intervention to resolve the crisis.
The new law also allows for a National Service Academy to be established and says men must apply for conscription within 60 days of turning 18.
Anyone caught trying to avoid military service could face up to three years in jail and a fine of up to 50,000 Qatari riyals ($13,700, 11,200 euros).
Since the beginning of the crisis, Qatar has ostentatiously signed several military contracts with countries including the United States, France, Italy and Britain.