Notes on Compulsory Army Service in Egypt

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Many countries have some form of compulsory Army service for a certain period, including Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, Egypt and others. In Egypt, service in the army was compulsory for most of the 20th century. It is restricted to males 18 years to 35 years who do have another male brother, and is physically and mentally fit. Those who study can have a temporary reprieve until they finish their study, to a maximum of 24 or so. The duration of the service varies from 1 year (plus 3 months training) for university graduates, to 3 years for those with only elementary education. Before 1952, service could be avoided if one paid a large sum of money to the government. After 1952, and in the name of equality, this practice was abolished, and every eligible person had to serve. On the face of it, service in the army makes a young youth ready for combat if need be, teaches him to be adaptable, resourceful and tough. Reality is much different though. The army in Egypt, just like many other countries, is the culmination of bureaucracy, favoritism, nepotism, cronyism, corruption. All of these are rampant in the government, but more so in the army.The reasons for this are plenty. Those who serve in the army are two types: the recruits forced to serve before they can hold a job, or  travel abroad, and career staff. The career staff are two classes, the higher rank army officers (Second Lieutenant to General), and the lower rank (Private, Sargeant, ...etc.). The officers are either from a technical background (medicine, engineering, ...etc.) graduating from normal technical colleges, or of military disciplines, graduating from specialized military academies. Most join the army because it is a guaranteed government job that pays a relatively good salary and pension, and comes with many perks, such as use of army clubs, percieved social status, ...etc.. The lower rank officers are mostly people from lower social levels who have no education and join the Army because it is the only hope they have for a paying job. This is true in most armies of the world, including Canada, UK, USA and others. These lower rank officers can later go up to the first few ranks of officers, but are often derogatorily called ضابط مخلة (Dufflebag Officer), because they joined the armies as private rank soldiers.Many of the permanent  staff, specially the lower rank ones, disdain the temporary recruits, envying them for having education and better job prospects. They therefore use all the tricks to make their life miserable for the duration they are in the army. Some get the sick feeling of pleasure from the misery of others. Some feel satisfaction from being able to humilate a medical doctor or an engineer. Most of this is allowed in the name of teaching discipline and absolute obedience. Others use their position and influence as a secondary source of income. For example, they would agree to give recruits extra vacation days in return for a bribe. Some of these recruits, most likely farmers with no education at all, need the vacations because they have married early and have a family to support, so they need the vacation to work.Those lucky recruits with connections can practically spend the whole duration at home, with all the paper work arranged to make them look like they have been "sent on a mission" or "on loan" to some other unit. This is reminiscent of George W Bush national guard service during the Vietnam War era, but on a larger scale.Those with no connections, and no money for bribes can only watch how cruel real life is  ... So, the army is mostly a demoralizing experience for those forced to do the compulsory service. Some reverse wisdom can be seen in proverbs and saying that are famous in the army such as:

  • "Injustice to all is justice!" الظلم لما يعم يبقى عدل This is told by officers when recruits complain of some situation. The response is to apply injustice to everyone, then it becomes justice. Of course, not even this twisted logic is true, given the bribes and favoritism that are widely practiced.
  • "In the army, you have to find a way"الجيش قال لك اتصرف. This used to mean resourcefulness, and making do with what you have. However it gradually evolved into "the ends justify the means", such as bribes.
  • "Talk only about yourself" اتكلم عن نفسك بس. A rebellion in the army is a big disaster to the chain of command. A mutiny used to be punishable by death (e.g. Fletcher Christian and the Mutiny on the Bounty). Hence, the army always do not want any kind of groups forming under any circumstances.

Of course, the Egyptian army is up to the challenge in the battlefield, no doubts about that. However, the compulsory draft system is absolutely useless, and is a remnant from another age.



My husband ro be lives in

My husband ro be lives in egypt we have just spent alot of money to get hima nz visa and also paid for his airfare to New Zealand when he was leaving to come to me the millatary stopped him and said he cant leave he is still in study so i dont see what the problem is omg just let him come how can u make us so misserable we want to be a family and now we have wasted like $3000 nz dollars but they dont care can anyone help us

Kiwi Connection

I too am a kiwi with the hopes of bringing my man to live in NZ. would like to contact u if possible... Compare notes....

why cant they stipulate how

why cant they stipulate how long they have to go in or why do they wait till like aug/sept to say whether you are exempt or you must attend the army what happens if you are finished study you are married to a foreigner and she is pregnant then what happens? what are we suppose to do.... Do you know how hard it will be to survive in egypt and raise a family

Hey, I'm truly sorry for

Hey, I'm truly sorry for you.

Have quite the same problem, but what I can tell you is, surviving in Egypt isn't so difficult. I'm here as a single mother since almost 2 years and I manage that quite happily :) (Wouldn't leave for anything in the world, btw!) Of course it's hard not to have your man with you, but it's more an emotional problem than a practical one, at least for me. So, I don't wanna bother, but if you'd like to talk, you may contact me on

Chin up, girls - it's not forever, after all...

Hi, my husband has a

Hi, my husband has a temporary exemption from the military (his father is unfit for work, he supports his family and younger brother). This is his second temporary exemption (the first was for university). I am American and we want to go visit my family in the US for two weeks. I am wondering how long it takes to get a travel permit from the army? What does he need to do, etc? Thanks

If he is in Egypt he will

If he is in Egypt he will need a permission to go out of country. It is easy to get one as far as i know he will need the following :

1-Original valid passport "With US visa/ Green card " + 1 Copy of each.
2-National ID i think + copy.
3-Original exemption + copy.

He will take all the above mentioned stuff and go to a place called "HELMEYET EL ZATOUN" he will know that place if he's Egyptian and they will ask him why he's going out of country.If he has everything they will print a permission to leave the country while he's waiting.

Hi I was just wondering if my

Hi I was just wondering if my younger brother has a green card and got an immigration permission from the Egyptian authorities will i be able to get a temporary exemption from military as I will be the only son for my father after the immigration of my brother?

Hi everyone! As many of you,

Hi everyone!

As many of you, i also fell in love with and Egyptian, but we had to end our relation because he is an professional military and we can't marry. And now i feel that i can't breath anymore, i really need him so much!!! Isn't there a possibility to get married with him??? Really i don't know what to do anymore!!! :(

Already thank you for your answers!

your posting in 2001

I was wondering what you had found out & what became of you and your career-oriented military man....I want to marry an officer who is due to retire within 6 months...he will finish 25 years... Were you able to marry your man? Please contact me and we can talk: