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.

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Comments

my egyptian husband in army

I am american and iwas married to my egyptian husband may of 2007. they told him he would have to stay 2 years.. Today we were just told that the egyptian army wants him to divorce me or they will court marshall him.. He refused now egypitan army will take him to court... I need to try to find way to help; him... Please someone help us...

This is absurd

I can't believe for one second that the Egyptian Army would order someone to divorce a wife, regardless of where she is from. There is no law that says they are allowed to order such a thing.

Either he is telling you a lie, perhaps preparing you for a divorce, or something else is going on.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

I am a Canadian married to an

I am a Canadian married to an Egyptian man we are going through the same process for the army and they also 'suggested' he divorce me, even though we have a child together, leave me in Canada with our child and serve his country like he is suppose to. The officer was not demanding but kindly suggesting. I was very shocked because for a Muslim country where there are suppose to have family values these people certainly don't show any humanity at all. So yes they do suggest divorce not oblige but suggest and they make the process even harder.

Strange ...

It is strange that they would ask that, let alone expect it to obeyed.

The government and army are very bureaucratic and full of red tape. It may be the rules from decades ago that they have to apply, or at least pretend to apply.

I think part of it is the fear of infiltration of the military by foreign governments. It could be many things. Another part is to not make it an avenue for exemption, otherwise young males will go and marry foreigners to be exempted from the much hated service.

Do not confuse Muslim country with Muslim people with Muslim values.

MARRYING OR STAYING IN ANOTHER COUNTRY TO AVOID ARMY

17 YEAR AGE GAP MY PARTNER IS EGYPTIAN LIVING IN UK AFTER GAINING A MASTERS DEGREE IN SWEDEN. HIS FAMILY THINK I AM JUST A FRIEND. I HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT HE MAY BE AVOIDING THE ARMY BEEN IN UK TO GATHER AS MUCH MONEY AND THEN DISSAPEAR. HE APPEARS GENUINE BEEN TOGHETHER 3 YEARS. I HATE THAT HIS FAMILY FAIL TO KNOW I AM HIS GIRLFRIEND. HE SAYS IT IS TO DO WITH ME HAVING A DAUGHTER AND THAT HE IS THE ONLY BOY. HIS FAMILY WILL NOT APPROVE. EXPECT HIM TO PRODUCE A CHILD. I CANNOT HAVE ANY CHILDREN.
QUESTION IS THE SITUATION WITH THE ARMY AND ONLY BOY IN FAMILY AGE ECT ECT... IS WHAT HE IS TELLING ME TRUE. ??? I NEED TO MAKE SOME DECISIONS BUT I NEED INFORMATION TO MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION. ALSO HE GOT ME TO START A BUSINESS IN CAIRO DELIVERING COURSES. I FEAR HE WILL TAKE CREDIT FOR ALL MY HARD WORK SETTING IT UP AS THE PARTNER IS CAIRO IS A FREIND OF HIS. I TRAINED EGYPTIAN TO DELIVER MY COURSES. NO BUSINESS FOR ALMOST A YEAR. I FEEL SOMETHING NOT RIGHT GOING ON. I HELPED HIM TO GET HIS VISA

Something is wrong

Something is wrong.

If he is educated in Europe, then it is unlikely that is a scammer, but that could be a lie too.

If he is the only boy for his parents, then he is exempt from military service and not subject to military service at all.

You may be a victim of a scam. See warning for female tourists thinking of marrying Egyptians for details.

Married also to a egyptian in military

I was married in Cairo May 08, My husband was currently serving his compulsory time and on vacation. We werent aware of any rules stateing that marriage to an american was forbidden. Now yesterday they have found out and asked for our marriage papers and i havn't heard back from him. I saw your blog and wandered what happen recently to you and your husband. The laws are not the norm there and I think they differ from person to person. Im worried for him and what they might do. If they make him divorce me, I guess we would wait till he finishes and start over oh, what a pain. If you have any info i would greatly appreciate it.

They can't

They can't force someone to divorce a wife.

I know that any Egyptian in the army has to get permission to marry before s/he does so. Even if the spouse is Egyptian. So it has nothing to do with you being American.

They impose restrictions on any Egyptian army person who marries a foreigner, just in case she happens to be an espionage agent for her foreign country.

They can do other things like discipline him, demote him, imprison him, ...etc. but they can't force a divorce.

Sometimes I wonder if all these cases are by folk who are not in the army at all, marrying (or pretending to marry) a Western wife, then tell her lies about him being in the army to get out of the marries. That is, it can be a scam unrelated to the army at all, but unscrupulous Egyptian youth taking foreign women for a ride ...

Sigh ...
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Still a little confused

I was there in Jan. 08 and he was called to serve his time on the 15th, so I stayed with his family and they were wonderfull and accepting of me. We are definately in love and I returned in May 08 to do the full marriage. They called him to bring our marriage papers and photos of me. He is being detained and they are not telling him much. Im thinking its more the fact they think i may be some sort of spy..lol Im a marketing director in USA. He is really scared of what they are going to do, and we haven't talked for 2 days now. I don't want to call in fear of getting him into any trouble. We are not planning on living in usa instead living in Egypt. Maybe the visit to the embassy and him having to show his Id and number peaked an interest like maybe he was trying to get a visa and leave the military, who knows. I tried to email the embassy and the ministy of foreign affairs on the matter and no word back yet. I told him to divorce if that will make it better and he says no to be strong and we will make it through this. Im just worried.
Sandra

Marriage info between Egyptian / American

You mentioned "restrictions between military personnel and foreigners" and I have a question...If a military officer about to retire (within 6 months) wants to marry an American woman as his 2nd wife, would there still be restrictions because of his retirement? Please address this publicly and to my email address of pspikeyone@yahoo.com.... thank you...

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