On August 31, 2021, the Iraqi cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, approved a draft law to reinstate compulsory military service and referred the proposed law, called the “Service Under the Flag Law,” to the Iraqi parliament.
After the multinational force invasion of Iraq in 2003, the provisional coalition authority abolished Law No. 65 of 1969 on compulsory military service. According to the Iraqi government, the purpose of reintroducing military conscription is to encourage Iraqi youth to join the military and curb sectarian division caused by militant groups such as the Hashed al-Shaabi.
Law No. 65 of 1969
The abolished Law No. 65 of 1969 subjected every male who had reached 19 years of age and not enrolled in school to compulsory military service for 23 months. Each male who had reached 22 years of age and not completed middle school was required to perform military service for 18 months. Males who had completed studies in colleges or universities were assigned compulsory military service for nine months. (Law No. 65 of 1969, art. 1.)
Under article 3 of the law, during a state of war and emergency, the Council of Ministers could make Iraqi males who had reached 18 years old subject to compulsory military service.
Among other categories, under articles 6 and 7 of the law, those deemed medically unfit were exempt from compulsory military service, as were army, police, or security agency members who had attained officer rank; volunteers who had served at least five years in those services; and students enrolled in the academic institutions of those services.
Reaction to Draft Law
Opinion within Iraq is divided concerning the cabinet’s decision to reinstate compulsory military service. Those who support reinstatement, such as the head of the Iraqi Association, Ibrahim Habib, claim it will create sectarian balance among Iraqis by unifying them in a national army. Habib stated that this would eliminate all manifestations of sectarianism and the bearing of arms outside the national army.Those who oppose the reinstatement of compulsory military service argue that such an action would contradict the democratic system in Iraq. Social researcher Hussam Saad said that the conscription law would lead to the militarization of civil society and bring back harassment and security barriers, and therefore, it cannot be considered a benefit to civil society.