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

treatment in egyptian army

Hello, could you please direct me as to where I can find reliable information about the treatment a person receives in the egyptian army, especially if one was suffering from depression and paranoia, and had spent the last 7 years in prison/detention in the UK.

Thank you in advance for your assistance

Leaving the army

Hi Khalil,

My questions is a little bit aside from the main theme, but I hope you will help me.
My friend is in the Egypt army but he is not on compulsory service, he works in the army, 5 years already and I’m European myself.
He wants to quit so that we can be together and he tried the regular way, but he failed, they hold his resign.
Is there any way to leave the army in this situation, whatever it is.
The only way for now that we see is to get married, but if we do this he will go to the jail for 6 months and we are afraid to do that, because we are not sure that after the jail he will be exempted from the army.
Can you please help?

Review other comments ...

Yes, it can be difficult. Perhaps a lawyer can help here? Not sure.

Someone else had the same situation as you, and there were a few comments on it not long ago. Please scan the pages for similar comments.

Travel

Hey.. My fiance is due to finish his time in the army and wants to travel abroad... Is it easy to get clearance to travel, does it take long. can the army prolong giving clearance.. any help gladly accepted...

A friend in trouble-

My friend.-- He has not gone to army appointments, broken leg, broken shoulder, just did nothing. Now, at his next appointment this summer he is afraid. He has only 4 years schooling and works in the tourist trade to keep his family. Is he in trouble for neglecting his duty to his country ? Will he be sent to jail? What is his expectancy of a normal life now ? He is not married,the family is poor with no connections,and is 26 yrs old. Is there any advice please? Any way to sort this mess out? Thankyou.

exempt from military

I had heard that some egyptian men have received their papers saying they are not needed. the reasoning I was told , was this had to do with the year they were born. Is this true?
other than the mentioned reasons , age of parents, only son, ect. are there other reasons to receive paper saying not needed. thanks

True

Yes, this is true. It has to do with the needs of the army at a given time, and they may exempt a certain "cohort". One can be thankful they don't have to serve if they are one of the lucky cohorts. But one cannot rely on it though, it is always random and cannot be predicted.

A few questions

Hi there,

just found this site by chance, sorry I couldn't read through all the comments. Even though this thread seems a bit old, inshaAllah anyone can answer me some questions please?

The situation in brief: I'm a German muslim living in Egypt with my daughter (from first Egyptian husband who was a bloody con artist and left without a trace - saying he'd divorce me but never sending any papers or stuff, so I don't know). Now since 1,5 years I have a nice new man and we want to marry but couldn't yet because of this problem. He studied at al-Azhar but broke up before having a degree. Well, and he tried to avoid military service, but after he turned 30 in January, he was fed up with hiding away and reported with the army, expecting they would just make him pay some money or so. Instead, they told him he has to serve now for 2 years, just gave him 3 days to say bye to everyone, and there now, he's gone. Luckily we are in touch on mobile alhamdulillah.

Can anyone advise me what to do? Wallahi I don't have anyone in the world but God, myself and him. Is there any possible way to make the time shorter than 2 years? I mean, could I try talk to any responsible one or would that make things rather worse? Then, we had tons off contradicting information, so, what's the truth about the current law? I think the 2 years are basically correct given he doesn't have a university degree. But he is 30 already ... on the other hand they told him, this is for students of governmental universities or colleges only, the Azhar guys have to serve till 31. True or no? What about the rules concerning vacations and / or visits from me, nowadays? Could we get married while he is in the army? (Even if it didn't get him out, just to make it right before God, you never know...) Any other facts to consider?

I'm grateful for any serious hints. Thank you.

Maybe a second scammer?

For the divorce from your first husband, you can visit or go to Dar Al Iftaa Al Masreya - Deutsch and ask for a ruling that would render the marriage void for the reason if extended absence of the husband. Then you can remarry.

The 2 years are correct for someone who did not finish a university degree, otherwise it would be 1 year only.

I think after age 30, those who did not do the service do not continue to be wanted for that service.

Never heard Azhar has a limit of 31 years of age.

From what you said, it seems that the second man could be a con artist as well. The army does not give a few days to say good bye.

Also, saying he is studied at Azhar seems to be targeted exactly at your emotions, being a German convert to Islam. Something that would appeal to you perhaps.

Perhaps he is playing, and made up an excuse to break off from you?

Be careful and don't get fooled twice ...

Thousand thanks for your

Thousand thanks for your quick answer, great really!

Well yeah, of course I'd been thinking about him not being serious from the beginning, but I rarely make the same mistakes twice, so I've checked on certain points and am as sure as one can be. We've been put through some hard outward tests, too. Besides, lol, I'm not exactly well off, not an easy sport to play and definitely not going back to Germany, which he knows, so what could he want from me? I think that's not the point. Am cautious on that side of things anyway.

It's just that: I'm seriously ill, Allahu a3lam but sometimes I think I don't have too much time. That's why we want to get married now (considering the afterlife) inshaAllah. I guess the army won't be much impressed with that, but again, is there a way we might have it done, supposed I can sort out things with my first husband? Going to check the link you provided at any rate, however the issue army & marriage doesn't seem to be an easy one from what I read here.

About the age limit for Azhar students, this is one of the many (and often odd)things we heard from different people. Not easy to confirm truths here... Maybe it was a big mistake of him to go to the lion's den so soon after his 30th birthday and on his own account? Anyway we've got to deal with it now.

You know, trusting God is one important and good thing, but you've also got to make some effort yourself (as long as it's sensible of course). So I'm just trying to get as much information as possible, and see what might be done. Any further opinions welcome.

By the way, you're doing a great job here. God bless you.

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