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.



Important I heard that once

Important I heard that once they are done serving in the army they can not travel out ot country for 5 years. Is this true? We want to marry after he is done serving and he wants to move to USA with me but how long after he is done can we do this?

Not true.

I don't think this is true. What I know is that each time he has to travel he has to get permission to travel from the army, which adds to delays and paper work. But there is no outright ban on travel after the army service is completed.

army service call back

hi i would like to know if the army training periods vary -my guy has said he cannot contact me for 10 days as he has been called back to the army for training - no mobile. Is this correct or is he just having time with others -im concerned as i go over in three weeks time. i am assuming he will be back by then.

I met an Egyptian man while

I met an Egyptian man while visiting Jordan. He has worked in Jordan legitimately for five years so clearly he has a passport and travel clearances. He says he has never done military service because his father and brother did, and the Egyptian army doesn't require all males in the family to serve. Does anyone know if this is true? It seems contrary to the other information I have read.


The law says that all physically fit males with male brothers have to serve. They may sometimes exempt a cohort if they have more numbers that they need, but that is on a cohort by cohort basis, not dependent on who's father or brothers served or not.

Others may have more up to date information.

OK I have further details -

OK I have further details - apparently when it was time to be "called up", they were selecting certain birth years only, and everyone from his year (1979) lucked out and didn't have to do the service.

Supporting mother fiancially - exemption?

I found this in Wikipedia "Egypt
Egypt has a mandatory military service program for males between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Conscription is regularly postponed for students until the end of their studies, as long as they apply before they turn twenty-eight years of age. By the age of thirty a male is considered unfit to join the army and pays a fine. Males with no brothers, or those supporting parents are exempted from it"
The part I'm interested in is where it says "those supporting parents are exempted from it"
Is this true? How could I find out for sure?

Egyptian brother in law

Can anyone please help me ? My sister married an Egptian man who i believe is pure of heart, however due to another persons lack of humanity his visa ran out whilst here so he was sent back home and made to make a new application. From the Australian side everything was approved however the Egyptian consulate had denied him a visa to return to Australia. My sister is heartbroken, and we cannot undertstand why he has been denied ! Who can we go to to try and get him back home to us ? Or what could the reasons be for his denial ?


You say "The Egyptian consulate has denied him a visa to return to Australia". This cannot be right, since an Egyptian consulate does not issue visas for foreign countries for Egyptian citizens.

You don't mention if his issue is the military service or what.

Does he have a passport? Does he need a military service stamp in the passport to travel?

The info you provided is incomplete or inaccurate.

my husband just was taken to serve his army

I am married since jan 09 to my egyptian husband. I am American. We married in Sharm El Sheikh. We had planned to move to USA or Australia to be near family. He had told me he had already served his army duties, but now he was taken feb 09 to serve again?? this is so strange, now he says he has to serve for 6 months more and possibly 1 year, and was deployed march 22nd to Afghanistan. He is miserable, and now so thin, says they do not eat good, 1 time a day bad stuff.they do not treat these soliders good. We get only 5 mins to talk if lucky and I have had to go 3-4 weeks between hearing from him. I have returned to USA to wait him and work on his paperwork. This is nuts.

I can not understand how a government can not take care of their troops, no money for food, and make them survive with what they have??? anyone know about this??

I pray for all who are in this situation, and pray for my love to return, so we can have our life back.