Qatar has called up hundreds of civilians, including diplomats, for mandatory military service operating security checkpoints at World Cup stadiums
The deployment of conscripts, some of whom would normally defer national service because their work is considered vital, highlights the logistical challenge faced by the tiny Gulf Arab state hosting one of the world’s biggest sports tournaments.
The conscripts are training to manage stadium security queues, frisk fans and detect contraband like alcohol, drugs or weapons concealed in ponytails, jacket linings or even false bellies, according to training materials seen by Reuters.
Qatar has a population of 2.8 million – of which barely 380,000 are Qatari nationals – and expects an unprecedented influx of 1.2 million visitors for the tournament. It has an agreement with Turkey which is supplying 3,000 riot police, as well as one with Morocco and potentially Pakistan could supply military personnel.
Britain is providing air and naval security for the tournament.
In early September the civilians were ordered to report for pre-dawn duty at the national service camp north of the capital Doha, less than three months before the 29-day tournament kicks off.
The civilians were told they had been called up to assist with the World Cup and that it was their “patriotic duty” to do so, the source said. “Most people are there because they have to be – they don’t want to get in trouble,” the source said.
Some volunteers are also training alongside the conscripted force.
Asked for comment, a Qatari government official said in a statement that the country’s national service programme would continue as normal during the World Cup.
“Recruits will provide additional support during the tournament as part of the regular program, just as they do every year at major public events, such as the National Day celebrations,” the statement added.
Since 2014, Qatari men aged between 18 and 35 have trained with the military for at least four months as part of mandatory national service introduced by the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Dodging the duty can incur a year in prison and a fine of 50,000 Qatari riyals (£12,800).
Qatar has brought diplomats home from several overseas missions, including in the United States, China and Russia.
The tournament starts on November 20.