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.



Very odd

This is very odd.

First who "sent him back to Egypt"? Is it his parents? He is 24 years and it is unlikely they would do that. To what end?

Second, anyone with a foreign passport goes in and out of Egypt freely. Even those who are of the age to do the service. That is one reason why many Egyptians long for a foreign passport.

Normally people with non-Egyptian passports who have skipped the service just let it lapse and don't bother with it. Those who have Egyptian passport stay abroad until they are above the age of enlistment, and then the court and all that is just a matter of pushing paper through government officers to get a passport that says they are not needed for the service. Foreign passport holders don't even need to do that, since their passport allows them to go and in out anytime.

The above does not add up. Either that, or things have changed drastically in recent years.

Thanks for the reply

Well, originally him and his father went to the Egyptian empasy 'i hope i spelt that right' to sign over a apartment block his father has in Egypt into his sons name 'my friend', and apparently that is when all of the drama about my friend not doing his time in the military started. He has a dual citizenship, both Egyptian and Australian.

Now they're saying he didn't do his time in the military, they were working it out in Australia and the Egyptian empasy gave him a lawyer, but it wasn't going well and the court case went to Egypt for a actual court case, and than he told me they wanted to arrest him as soon as he landed.

He doesn't know how to speak Arabic, and he has a fair bit of money in Egypt under his name off his father, which i think he told them he intended on selling. He is half Egyptian and half Turkish.

i am only going on what he told me, which is why i am glad i found this forum, i can get answers and maybe his pulling my finger or maybe it is for real, as i said i don't know the whole military laws nor even the Egyptian way of life and such, so i am hoping someone can educate me a bit on his situation. he left on Monday morning, it is now Saturday night and i haven't received a email or anything from him saying he is safe, so i am really worried about him, I'd hate to think his lying because why would someone do that :( I just want to understand and hope he comes home soon.

But yes, he does have a Egyptian passport, as well as a Australian one. I really hope i made that less confusing.

military service and traveling abroad

hello, my name is zizo, my situation is really weird, i have a twin and both of us are the oldest, but, i'm going to get graduated before him by two years, he is in school of medicine and i'm in pharmacy college, my father is 65 years old and then by this, i'll be the oldest to graduate and i'll be in law the one who supports the family (el3a2el) so i'm very confused about this, and i need to travel to turkey, this august, so i don't know my military situation for the passport and visa papers, u know,
please, can u help me in that?

i really appreciate ur help


Just wanted to know how long it takes to get permission to travel from the Military here. He has Aefa valid until 2013 and Resident status in Canada. So we will need the permission to leave and wondered if anyone knew how long it takes to get the permission from them.

I've an other question, i

I've an other question, i hope u can help me!

When a egyptian man is already in the army (when he works in it) can he marry a foreign? Or is it forbidden? Could he leave the army or is there a contract against it?

Pls help me! Thank u so much!!!!

Illegal Marriage and The Army (Advice Needed Please, Urgent)

Hi All.

My friend married an Egyptian guy (much younger than her) almost twoyrs ago, (he is now living with her here in Britain)It has just come to light that the marriage may not be legal, as he has a wife and child in Egypt, who he said, he had divorced, and showed divorce paper's when they married. So I belive he is not here on a legal status???

Also every time he goes "home" (he goes alone as his family do not know about her) he tell's her he is forced to pay large ammount's of money, to the army, to enable his return to Britain....Once when she was "allowed to go with him (she stayed on her own in a hotel) she never saw him for about 3-4 day's. He told her he was in an army prison...SHE could not visit but his FRIEND could!!!!

Now, I hate to sound or feel suspicious and would hate to see my friend hurt but something does not feel "right" here. I do so hope my feeling's are WRONG.....Please can someone tell me the TRUTH about this situation.

Thank you...

Your friend married to an Egyptian

I know Egyptian men VERY VERY well.They use women(espacially foreign ones)for money/visas.anything they can get their grubby dark hands on.I suppose your friend would have found out by now that he was going back to his wife/child in egypt(not prison)and as soon as his visa was given bye bye and over the wife and child come??That swhy he never told his family about her and stayed alone in a hotel while wifey 1 and him were making up plans

I'm English and getting married to an Egytpian


I am currently engaged to an Egyptian and he is 23 by the way. I jus wanted to know if he had to pay or should he get exempt from the army as he hasnt got any siblings. He said he spoke to someone and said he had to pay to make the papers he needs not to go in the army, and everything should be ok. He aslo said that he has to pay the money becasue he didnt go when he was suppose to, so it was like a fine!!

If you have any info i would greatly appreciate it.
Thank You

it has been said many times

it has been said many times that i am now convinced it is true, that any family having only ONE boy (and could have numerous sisters) he will NOT go to the army. he wont go either when he has a dual nationality and can prove it, and i think he must have a dual passport for doing that as well
further, that's if ur lucky: if he has more than one brother, it is still slightly possible he might be exempted from the army if he is going to be rejected in cases like that they didnt pick him to go (they choose certain dates of the year that people will have to go and the rest are free and exempted) this more likely (in my experience and what i have heard) happens when he has asked for a delay of military service for reasons like studying
another way to get out of it is by a serious injury like breaking an arm or so however i am not sure of that fact and maybe if so it must be clarified it was an accident rather that with intentions of not going. (however i am not sure of this point)

Up to You....But

I would say "Dont Do It" but then, I know the beating's my friend has been through( because of question's asked (after the marriage) about the "army", Why do you need to know "my" business...just one, of many, question asked by her "husband"), you will pay for the "army" untill he leaves you, then he will have all that money( in a bank account) when he return's to Egypt, with the right to live in your country....He WILL stay untill he get's what he want's.....CYNICAL...YES...SORRY!!