Notes on Compulsory Army Service in Egypt

For full recipes, please visit our recently launched Egyptian Cuisine Recipes web site.

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.

Contents: 

Comments

Foreign citizenship for wife

What I know is that being married to a foreigner prevents one from serving as an officer, on the grounds that he would be privy to some military secrets and such. It used to be the case that such marriage or having one parent being a non-Egyptian meant that one serves as a regular private. This is actually desirable since a soldier serves less time than an officer.

As for marriage making him ineligible for exemption for father's age, this is new information to me that I never heard before. If you are living abroad, then he can call the Egyptian consulate and ask about this information. If you are in Egypt, he should ask the military themselves. Hard definitive information is hard to get, but there are no other options other that to ask the source itself.

Permission to travel out of egypt pre Military service

Hi can any give me advice, my husband is egyptian and has a settlement visa to join me here in the UK but he has not completed his militray service yet as it has been deferred til he reaches 28 as he is a "student". We are aware that he has to obtain a document from his Uni to take to the military agency which allows him to travel out of egypt during the uni vacation... Feb or summer, however his University are refusing to give him this paper now and state that he must succeed in his exams in Jan to get this paper before the summer holidays. My husband has not actually studied this year although he has enrolled due the necessity to work to survive.... can anyone tell me if there is a way around this or what else we can do??

Hi, i am an American who will

Hi, i am an American who will be marring an Egyptian General as soon as he retires. How long will it take him to be able to come to the US?..We plan on getting married in Egypt, then moving here to be close to my grandchildren. He is divorced with no children. We met online over 3 years ago and i have sence met him in person. Any information would be wonderful. Thanks

Different rules

Given that he is such a high ranking officer with a long career in the army, he may be privy to army secrets and sensitive information.

He may be subject to stricter rules than those that apply to the regular conscripted compulsory service.

It is best that he checks with his superiors on what applies to him.

length of service

I was happy to find your blog.
(1) What is the length of service for a career officer in the Egyptian Army? The person in question is a doctor who joined after school. He claims that he does not know when he can leave. He is 34 years old and says he was young and stupid, but very glad to have a job, when he first joined. I saw another post that implied the limit for officers such as him is 40 years old.
(2) What is the process for leaving the army when one signed on for military officer career?
(3) Is it plausible that he does not have a passport? He says that he has no passport, and further that he has never had a passport, and that in Egypt, it would be required to be stamped by his employer - the Army.
(4) Arrest and Jail time for marrying a foreigner? You have made it very clear that the govt cannot force a couple to divorce, but he claims that when his co-serving officers have married a foreign born person, that they were arrested and served anywhere from a couple of months to 18 months in prison.
(5) Effective Intervention by American wife? Supposedly the above mentioned situation was remedied far faster when the wife was american and worked through the American embassy to try to obtain his freedom.
(6)Is he allowed to take the American medical boards exams while still in the employee of the Army?
(7) Is there a way to verify the information? Maybe the worst question and perhaps it should have been first. I know that many are exempted temporarily due to being in school. His Faculty of Medicine degree from Ain Shams University is verifiable. But is it possible to know that he is truly working in the Army? Here in the U.S., in the military hospitals, there are both private practice doctors and also military doctors. But I don't know about in Egypt at all.
(8) If he is arrested for marrying a foreigner and subsequently jailed, and he receives a dishonorable discharge, does that mean his medical license is taken away?

Answers ...

(1) What is the length of service for a career officer in the Egyptian Army? The person in question is a doctor who joined after school. He claims that he does not know when he can leave. He is 34 years old and says he was young and stupid, but very glad to have a job, when he first joined. I saw another post that implied the limit for officers such as him is 40 years old.

A career officer is someone who either graduated from the regular university (doctor, engineer, ...etc.) or someone who graduated from a military academy. When they join the army, it is understood that this is for an indefinite term, normally until they are retired when they reach a certain level.

Depending on the specialty, location, need, competition for higher levels, they let them go when they are a colonel or some other level.

Some do it for the job security, relatively good pay, and perceived perks. After a while some can't take it, and find that there is too much bureaucracy, and long for civilian life again.

(2) What is the process for leaving the army when one signed on for military officer career?

I heard several stories, and they are all anecdotal. The overriding theme is that it is not easy to leave. Some misbehave so that they are fired sooner by their superior.

(3) Is it plausible that he does not have a passport? He says that he has no passport, and further that he has never had a passport, and that in Egypt, it would be required to be stamped by his employer - the Army.

Not all people in Egypt have passports. Out of the 80 million Egyptians, only a low percentage would have a need for them.

Yes, someone who is employed in governmental organizations have to get the permission of their employer to leave the country. I would imagine that this applies to the army and be more stringent due to the perception of being privy to sensitive information.

This does not apply to the private sector.

(4) Arrest and Jail time for marrying a foreigner? You have made it very clear that the govt cannot force a couple to divorce, but he claims that when his co-serving officers have married a foreign born person, that they were arrested and served anywhere from a couple of months to 18 months in prison.

I don't know first hand of any cases either way.

(5) Effective Intervention by American wife? Supposedly the above mentioned situation was remedied far faster when the wife was American and worked through the American embassy to try to obtain his freedom.

Not sure if they would favor one nationality over the other. Again, no first hand information here.

(6)Is he allowed to take the American medical boards exams while still in the employee of the Army?

That is a question for the American medical board mainly.

(7) Is there a way to verify the information? Maybe the worst question and perhaps it should have been first. I know that many are exempted temporarily due to being in school. His Faculty of Medicine degree from Ain Shams University is verifiable. But is it possible to know that he is truly working in the Army? Here in the U.S., in the military hospitals, there are both private practice doctors and also military doctors. But I don't know about in Egypt at all.

Unless you have someone you trust in Egypt who can dig up this information, there is no credible way of doing that. There are some private detective individuals in Egypt, but they could be scammers themselves.

If you don't trust the person, then stay away from him.

(8) If he is arrested for marrying a foreigner and subsequently jailed, and he receives a dishonorable discharge, does that mean his medical license is taken away?

I am not sure. The medical license is up to the Doctors Syndicate, not the army. Perhaps he should ask there.

There may be other ramifications to being jailed, e.g. difficulty in obtaining employment in Egypt, or difficulty in traveling abroad. He has to know exactly what he is getting into.

Be careful what you are getting into. Stay away from remote fishy relationships. Use your brain, not emotions. Consult others you trust.

Hello help needed my partner

Hello help needed my partner is from egypt and signed a paper to say he couldnt go to army as he was in education but left it and is now working i really want for him to come to england for a while as i always go and visit him, we are not sure if this is possible will he have to serve in the army first or can it be paid so he doesn't have to go *PLEASE ANSWER IF YOU HAVE INFO*

Military exemptian

I am British, my husband Egyptian. We have lived in the uk for 4 years. he is 28 and hasnt served his military time. We havent been able to extend his Egyptian passport here in the uk due to not completeing the military.
He would know like to return to Egypt to sort this out.
Would it be better to apply to the Egyptian Consulate London for clearance.
Or travel to Egypt on his EU passport and try there.
his eu passport states that he is Egyptain, will they still ask for clearance papers or stamp?

Two issues

From what you said, I assume that he is a dual national now (Egypt by birth, and UK).

If that is the case, then there are two separate issues:

1. Whether he can go to Egypt and leave safely without problems.

2. Renewing his Egyptian passport.

If he has an EU passport, then #1 does not matter much, because he can travel to Egypt using his EU passport, and upon entry show them his expired Egyptian passport to prove his citizenship (not a big deal, just exempts him from the visa process and fee).

To renew the Egyptian passport, he has to go and pay a fine first, then get some papers from the military, take it to the passport office to show them that he is no longer wanted for the service and then get an Egyptian passport.

If he is no rush (e.g. does not need the passport for a contract or something in Egypt), it is safer to wait until he is 30 years old, then go to this process.

It is also best if he asks in the Egyptian Consulate in the UK about the details of the process before he takes any actions. If not, then his close relatives can ask a lawyer who specializes in these cases in Egypt.

re

i am filipina married in with a egyptian national,,we meet in lebanon have thye same case with u,,,but the difference the place we live my husband before reneiw his passport in eyfptian consolate in lebanon without any question and he make a military obligation his country becauseof the exemtion that his he is the older and his father was fast away,,,the best thing we do he went home to egypt at after the age of 30,,like he is 31 yrs. already and he pay to the goverment at 3500 L.E.less or more,,god bless to you!!!

Pages