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.



some advice

dear readers,

a year ago i put a comment on this site to, my egyptian husband had to go to the army allthough we were married (im european by the way). whatever i tried to stop this decision, nothing worked; where-ever i asked for info, believe me , everybody has his own theory!

what i can tell you now is that, if you really love your husband, this army is not a reason to worry. im almost 2years married now, my husband will finish his service in 8 months. we already survived 14months! time goes faster than you think, put trust and love in the one you want to share your life with and believe that Allah is the only one who sees the good of this situation.



I would be very grateful if someone could help me?

My husband of 2 years ran away from the army and is now living illegally in the uk... Is there any hope for him and me??????


Depends ...

It depends ...

If he started the army service and then "ran away" (technically, it is "desertion"), it is a very serious matter, and often punished by a prison term, followed by completion of the term for army service and a certificate that indicates he did bad things during the service. The certificate issue is not important unless he wants to apply for a government job. I am not sure if there is an age limit like the other case below that exempts him from the prison term.

If he "ran away" before he was called for service, it is not as serious. Many people do it, and wait until they are over a certain age (forgot exactly what it was, perhaps 35 years), and then pay a fine and get a certificate saying he is no longer wanted. If he acquired citizenship from another country (UK for example), then he can go and come as he pleases without much problems, unless he wants to renew an Egyptian passport or apply for work in Egypt.

It is best if he contacts the consular office of the Egyptian embassy in the UK and check what his options are.

Question for "Help"

How did he get out of Egypt?? My husband has his visa to America but he hasnt applied for his military papers yet so he cant even leave the country. I think they will stop him at the egyptian airport and not let him leave. They said he cant even apply for military exemption until January.

I am in the exact same

I am in the exact same situation! my husband has his visa but they wouldnt let him apply until january! now he tried applying and they wont let him apply until april!! what di u end up doing, please let me know of ur situation!


i have a question. i have a friend who is an egyptian, i believe an egyptian citizen though he has lived in America for a while. He went to visit in Egypt and now has wound up being held in jail there. He never served his military time. How much time is he looking at or will he be released? :(


My boyfriend has 6 mths to go on his one yr compulsory service, how long after his completion is he allowed to travel abroad, can he be stopped for travelling once hes finished, how long will the necessary paperwork take and what and whom are involved..We had hoped all might take 6 mths at the most.... is this achievable.. Any help appreciated .. Thanks

I am a foreigner married to an Egyptian.........

I am a canadian citizen who married an Egyptian man and I am currently pregnant and living here in Egypt I do not work so he is my only support...I wanted to travel back to Canada to give birth there and want my husband to come with me(we will come back to live here in Egypt)but he hasn't done his military service, here are a few facts...he is finished his university and is employed, he has a younger brother who is not physically fit to do his service, my husband has blood pressure problems but I am not sure if this is enough of a health risk for him to be exempt and we plan to live here...can someone give me some advice on this matter? might he be exempted due to any of these circumstances i mentioned?


army service

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 the service. Former President Sadat added that any Egyptian who has dual nationality is exempted from military service and this is still in effect till today. Males serve for a period ranging from fourteen months to thirty-six months depending on their education; highschool drop-outs serve for thirty-six months. College graduates serve for lesser periods of time, depending on their education, and college graduates with special skills are still conscripted yet at a different rank and at a different pay scale with the option of remaining with the service as a career. Some Egyptians evade conscription and travel overseas until they reach the age of thirty, at which point they are tried, pay a $580 fine (as of 2004), and are dishonorably discharged. Such an offense, legally considered an offense of "bad moral character", prevents the "unpatriotic" citizen from ever holding public office.

Father over 60

Isalamu Alaikum,

My fiance's father is over 60, so my fiance is currently temporarly exempt from serving in the military until his younger brother finishes college, by which time my fiance will be over 30, plus I'm an Egyptian-American, so we thought he's exempt for life. But after reading Khalid's blog, I realized my citizenship is worthless. We also recently found out that if we marry, then he will be required to serve in the military because he will no longer be classified as the providor for his 60 year old father. So his initial exemption will drop.

Is this true? In this case, if we don't marry he is exempt from the army, but if we do marry, then he must serve????