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.