Abuse of Military Service Duty … [Archives:1998/33/Reportage]

August 17 1998

Cont’d from Front Page:
3) Whenever secondary school graduates complete their military service, they are not released promptly. They are often delayed, as if on purpose to miss university admission deadlines. They are generally delayed for 3 to 5 months.
4) The service is not really compulsory. For YR 5000 a year, any one can get a waiver for as long as they want. Many kidsfrom well-to-do families skip service this way.
In other words, the military draft is no longer a national service which all adult Yemeni males should do. But it has become some sort of a tax.
This is what the people concerned with recruiting Yemen’s young men into the army had to say about the process:
1) Staff Brigadier Mohammed M. Muharram, Commander of Military Recruitment at the Ministry of Defense
“The compulsory military service law, endorsed in 1979, was quite a courageous step that made a big qualitative change in Yemen’s defense capabilities, and enhanced its national unity.”
“There are well defined and strict conditions for exemption from national service, which are as follows:
1- the young man must be his parent’s only child,
2- the only child to a disabled father,
3- his siblings are unable to support the family due to illness, etc, or
4- above 30 years of age.”
“As for postponement, priority is given to migrant workers, students studying abroad, or those who have special conditions that prevent them from being conscripted for a limited period of time. Those temporarily exempted have to pay token money every year, which is given to the Tax Authority.”
“After finishing military service, a conscript must remain in the reserve army until he reaches 50. There are future plans to organize light refresher training courses for our reserves.”
2) Colonel Mohammed Hussain Ghamdhan, head of Planning and Statistics,
Military Recruitment Office,
Ministry of Defence.
“When the law was first enacted, there were no reliable statistics of the number of young men eligible for conscription. Facilities such as communication, etc, were not available to get frist-hand information about the numbers of eligible young men in rural and remote areas. Also, our experience was rather limited then.”
Benefits to the state
“A conscript used to get YR 1000 a month. Starting now, this amount is doubled. A regular soldier gets YR 5000. Thus, the state saves a lot of money by recruiting conscripts.
The other benefit is that a conscript is more educated than the average regular soldier. We rely on the conscripts in guarding foreign embassies and other similar establishments. They are generally better in response and in assessing situations.”
Secondary-school graduates
“There are more than 100,000 secondary-school graduates this year. The number keeps rising over the years. The number of soldiers needed for conscription is far less than that. The Ministry of Education chooses those with higher marks to teach at primary schools as part of their military service.”
Benefit to young people
“A raw conscript is transformed from civilian to military life where he learns order, toughness, patience, endurance, becomes physically fit, and learns new technical skills. There are also cultural benefits through lectures and seminars held every week.”
“The number of the first batch of conscripts in 1979 was 4,500. In 1989, just before unification, there were 25,000 conscripts. After unification in 1990, however, there was less need for new soldiers as the number of the army staff swelled up due to the merging of two armies. So there were only 15,000 conscripts. In the following years we only needed 25,000 new conscripts every year, except for last year when the number rose to 32,000. This year it will probably be back to 25,000.”
“Starting from this year, the duration of the compulsory military service will become two years, instead of the previous one year.”
There are about 500,000 reserve army troops and three times as many irregulars – People’s Army.
Mr. Hamoud Abdu Naji, General Director,
Planning and Statistics, Ministry of Education.
Primary school teachers
“The policy of making secondary-school graduates teach at primary schools was adopted in the 1970s due to the country’s economic circumstances then. There is now less reliance on secondary-school graduates due to the increasing numbers of graduates from colleges of education, art, etc.”
“Frankly speaking, making secondary-school graduates teach at primary schools has resulted in much harm to the whole educational system in Yemen. The academic level of the average Yemeni student is much lower than his peers in neighboring countries. Besides, the idea of sending these people to teach in primary schools, when our kids are in their formative years, is absurd. We should send our best teachers to these youngsters.””There are, of course, some advantages. It has Yemenize our educational system by making it less reliant on foreign teachers. Thus has many implications. A direct one is the savings by the state’s coffers of large sums of hard currency. We are also able to cover the lack of teaching staff in rural and remote areas. But just as importantly, it has reduced acculturation of Yemenat the hands of other nationalities. ”
“Students with high grades are recruited as teachers, while those with low marks are sent to do their military service.”
“The total number of annual secondary-school graduates is about 120,000, 35% of those are female. So what is theoretically available for military service with the Ministry of Defense is about 78,000 new graduates every year.”