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.



If he goes back to Egypt he

If he goes back to Egypt he will be forced to join the military even with a green card. There is a law about men married to Americans but it takes a long time to complete the process. Tell him to wait till he gets his US citizenship.

My husband was just taken to

My husband was just taken to the Egyptian army after months of supposed investigation - I am a natural born American - They kept saying you will be refused - You will be refused - Its all bullshit - They doctored his papers showing he was single & when he contested it they said "You have to go while we fix this or you will be arrested for dodging the service" - I have never seen a country treat its people so horribly - And you cannot I repeat cannot get a straight answer from any source - Even the supposed expert military law lawyers gave us the run around! I ham soooooo extremely frustrated as we have papers waiting from the US immigration - Its like the Egyptian government deliberately did this to mess up his visa application.

Not unique

Sorry for what happened to your husband.

Being married to a foreigner does not exempt one from army service in Egypt. The best it can do is demote the person from an officer to a private, and hence serving less time (1 year vs 3 years).

I am just wondering if you met him while on tourism to Egypt or some other way? I ask that because I have heard of Western women who were conned by Egyptian men, and the man uses the army as an excuse to flee the supposed marriage/engagement. See Warning to female tourists thinking of marrying Egyptians.

As for Egypt having a compulsory military draft, there are lots of countries that have the same, and they too take it too seriously. Examples are Turkey, Netherlands, and many others. Remember how serious draft dodging was during the Vietnam War? It is just how things are ...

My husband and I have been

My husband and I have been married for 2 years. We're both 24 and have finished college. He's currently in Egypt waiting until next month to see if he has to join in the military. He has 3 brothers that have been, and I have heard that alot of men have currently been accepted to the military unlike last year. How does the process work and I have heard that his marrying an American such as myself is not grounds for his being exempt. Is there a way that he can complete papers to postpone his joining at this time?

Are you sure you have a

Are you sure you have a recognized marriage? It sounds like you might have an orfi marriage. Did you have to get a paper from the US embassy and married at the Ministry of Justice in Cairo. If not, you don't have a legally recognized marriage and that is probably why they say he is single.

compulsory army

My husband and I have been married for 2 years. We are currently waiting for his military papers to finish processing which will be October 15th. I have heard that there have been many that have been accepted and I was wondering, if there is any way for postponement and if what, what is that process? His visa is in process and all we are waiting for are his military papers. We are hoping for either an exemption or a postponement.

compulsory army

There is no real answer, The egyptain military does what it wants.
But I can tell you a postponement will only delay the visa process.
He can not leave Egypt until he has a clearence from the Ministry of Defense.
A postponement will require him to check with the military again and again.
When the military knows a soldier is married to a forienor they seem to delay as much as possible.
As far as know the current group leaves for the training camp Monday Oct.11th.
If they do not take him at that time, he will be checking in on the next group that will leave in January.
The military can take a recruit inbetween but that is rare.
As far as the current group he should of had his letter by now, stating if he had to do military or not and for how long.
You maybe able to apply for an extention on the visa depending on your immigration laws.
That is what I will have to do,being that the army is dragging their feet.
My husband was suppose to start his military time in the April group but now they seemed to have lost his original file.
If anyone would like to email or know about our progress in this situation I would be happy to responed.

Today, my husband went to the

Today, my husband went to the military place in his hometown. He was supposed to have gone in October 15th, but it was postponed for November 3rd due to some elections. He had to get a physcial and so on. He's a graduate and they told him that they recommended him for officer. He was told that if he applied in this month, they would postpone his military service. He told me there was about 10,000 men there and they accepted about 95 percent of them to see if they have to join in December 1st. I was wondering, how likely is it for him to get a temporary postponement or exemption?

applying for a visa, but still in the army


My husband will finish his service March 1st 2011 in the Egyptian military and we would like to apply for his visa soon (to Denmark). There is a 6 months wait on the visa, so we were thinking to apply for it now so that we'll have the visa right after he is done with his service.
But is he allowed to apply for a visa while he is still in the military or will the military make it hard on him if he does?

Thank you :-)

Applying for a visa while being in the army

We want to start with the visa process now, while my husband is still serving in the Egyptian army. Does anyone know if my husband will face any problems in the army if he applies for a visa now?

Thank you.