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.



Double Nationality

Hi all, My question here is about those who have another nationality rather than being Egyptian. Do they have to do the army service? I have heard they just pay some money or they are not allowed to serve at all. Can anyone please confirm such information.


In reality, does not matter

If you have the nationality of another country, and have a passport, then you would not care at all about army service in Egypt, because you can leave the country without presenting an Egyptian passport (and being asked about army service when issuing it).

However, there are certain internal things in Egypt that still require evidence of completion or exemption from army service. For example, getting employment in certain places.

If these are no concern to you, then it is not an issue at all, as I stated previously.
Khalid Baheyeldin

Finishing Masters Studies

If one has been abroad for his university studies, after finishing university, can he also make his Masters then do his military services afterwords and he is already 22 years old

Compulsary Military Service

I want to know is it necessary for every person to undergo military srevice in Egypt? I am a university graduate(B.A.)and have got teaching job in Saudi Arabia. Can I flee to Saudi Arabia safely or would it be essential to getsome sort of permission from govt?

Since everybody seems to be

Since everybody seems to be just as uncertain as I am & my boyfriend is, does anybody know where I can find an English translation of the current Egyptian law on this particular topic? Or would the Egyptian Embassy be a reliable source?

Thanks for a response!

hi, i dont seem to be the

i dont seem to be the only one who has a problem with the armymatter. im european and married to an egyptian last december. Everything went well, we love eachother, and the only thing we want now is being together and finally start our life after all the being apart. But my husband did not get exempt from army; even though he s married to me!! we are mailing embassy, foreign affairs, people that could help us with our problem butNOBODY seem to really know what is possible and most of the people just say we have not the influence to help your with your problem byebye :S even the officers in the army itself is not welcoming us for just a talk about the matter! pls can sb tell me what to do, where to get correct informaton about this military law and what they can do and what they cant. pls let me know if you recognize my situation in what i tell here.
i am just looking for any help that would bring us even a millimeter forward!
thank you in advance!!


A friend of mine married an Egypian man just over two years ago. He was called up for the army despite lots of money changing hands, over £1000 I think. He seems to spend a lot of time out of the base etc and I just wondered if this was normal? I thought that once you were in that was it and that holiday time was minimal. I'm just worried he is lying to my friend.
Money has also changed hands trying to 'buy' doctors etc to get him out and Im wondering if he isn't in the army and just taking the money.

Can anyone help me find further info?


Depending on who one knows or who one bribes, army service in Egypt can be on a totally absentee basis. This means that one can be nominally in the army, but in fact, not serving in practice. He would be just waiting it out to get his papers in order so he can get a passport and travel, and hold regular jobs and such.

However, if your friend is paying for these things, she should be really wary if this is a scam to swindle her or more money while she is married to that man. I can't comment on that specific case, but caution is warranted always.
Khalid Baheyeldin

Thank you...

... for such a quick reply, brilliant. Something I forgot to ask though, would he be getting paid?
Many thanks

Yes, but details matter

It depends on whether he has a university degree, technical degree or no degree.

If he is a university graduate there are two paths:

- If he goes in as an officer (3 year term), then he gets paid a government like salary, which is not high, but sufficient for some basic things.

- If he goes in as a private (soldier, 1 year term), then he only gets a nominal salary that is not even one day's expenses.

If he has a technical degree then he will go in as a private but for 2 years.

If he has no degrees at all, then he will go in as a private for 3 years. Salary goes up somewhat, but is not sufficient.
Khalid Baheyeldin