Country report and updates: Kuwait

Last revision: 31 Mar 1998
31 Mar 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription has existed ever since Kuwait achieved independence in 1961. Kuwait is, in fact, the only Persian Gulf State that has conscription.

Conscription is enshrined in arts. 47 and 158 of the Constitution, which describe national defence as a sacred and honourable duty regulated by law. [5]

The present legal basis of conscription is the 1980 Compulsory Service Act (Law 102/1980). [1]

military service

All men aged 18 to 30 are liable for military service. [1]

Military service lasts for two years, and one year in the case of university graduates. [2] [4]

Reserve service is required up to the age of 40. It involves a month's training per year. [8]

postponement and exemption

Postponement is allowed in the case of students and for domestic reasons. It is usually granted up to the age of 28, sometimes up to the age of 33. [1]

Exemptions are granted very liberally - in fact most young men get exempted in one way or another. [2]


Call-up takes place at the age of 18. According to the government most conscripts in the armed forces are aged 22 to 28.

Minimum enlistment age is 18. [1] [2]

Because of the liberal exemption policy, only a small percentage of liable conscripts is actually recruited.

After the 1991 Gulf War the government's stated aim was to have armed forces of 30,000 troops - that is, twice the current strength. Owing to the unpopularity of military service amongst the Kuwaiti population, it proves hard to reach this target. [2]

Traditionally, as in many Persian Gulf States, the Kuwaiti armed forces consist to a large extent of foreign volunteers. Before the 1991 Gulf War, only 20 to 30 percent of troops were Kuwaiti citizens. After the 1991 Iraqi invasion many non-Kuwaiti citizens - notably Palestinians and Bedouins - were expelled from the armed forces for alleged collaboration with Iraq.

The Bedouin case is particularly significant. Ever since independence they have been the backbone of the Kuwaiti armed forces: before 1991 approximately 90 percent of the professional army rank-and-file were Bedouins. In 1995 the figure was believed to be only 25 percent. Bedouins are not liable for conscription, as they are not considered Kuwaiti citizens. Many of them have joined the armed forces because they have seen this as a means of rising in the social scale, since government officials have promised that an army career could lead to achieving Kuwaiti citizenship. [2] [7]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized and there are no provisions for substitute service. [3] [4]

The government stated in 1980: "There are no legal provisions under which a Kuwaiti national who satisfies the conditions specified in the Compulsory Military Service Act (...) may be relieved of his responsibility to bear arms in defence of the integrity of his country." [6]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


No information available.


Military service is very unpopular amongst the Kuwaiti population. Exemptions are granted very liberally and most young men evade the draft by getting exempted for one reason or another. [2]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 15,300-strong - that is 0.92 percent of the population. Each year some 17,600 young men reach conscription age. [8]


[1] UN Commission on Human Rights 1992. Updated report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Sub-Commission on prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities resolution 1991/34. United Nations, Geneva. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/35/Add.1 [2] US Library of Congress 1993. Persian Gulf States - a country study. Area Handbooks, State Department, Washington DC. [3] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London. [4] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [5] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [6] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1980. Report by the Secretary-General. United Nations, Geneva. [7] Human Rights Watch/Middle East 1995. The Bedouins of Kuwait - "Citizens without Citizenship". HRW, New York. [8] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London. [9] DIRB, 19 October 1992.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Kuwait

19 Jan 2018

For many years, it looked like obligatory military service was on the way out. But in the last five years, the picture has changed: Norway has extended conscription for women; Sweden has reintroduced conscription for all; Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Kuwait have reintroduced conscription for men after short hiatuses; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have introduced conscription for the first time. We look at why governments are turning to compulsion in filling their armies, and what this means for pacifist movements.

05 Sep 2011

Back in March 2009 we reported that the Kuwaiti government was planning to reintroduce conscription in Kuwait, after it had been suspended in 2001 (see CO-Update No 45, February/March 2009). Back then we reported that a draft conscription law should be passed by parliament by the end of 2009. This did not happen. The discussion resurfaced in summer 2010 (see CO-Update 58, August 2010), and it seems now a new law reintroducing conscription will be enacted shortly.

05 Aug 2010

The Kuwait Times reported on 15 July that Kuwaiti politicians and government officials are currently discussing the possibility of reintroducing a period of mandatory military service for male citizens aged between 21 and 30. Such a system would see all able-bodied men in this age group compelled to serve for one year with the Kuwaiti military, while it may also be made optional for women in the same age group.

02 Mar 2009

Kuwait Times reported on 19 February that the authorities plan to
reinstate the conscription law by the end of 2009, after an eight-year
hiatus. The draft law will be reviewed by a high-level committee first
,after which it will be submitted to the National Assembly. Officials
said that young recruits will receive a monthly allowance, in addition
to their salaries. Those who study abroad, single-child (male) families
and diplomats will be exempted from service, reported Al-Waset.