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

Hi My husband just finished

Hi

My husband just finished the unbearable 45 days training. he told them that he is married to me, he was asked to fill a A4 application form. Now he started his work in cairo he was asked to fill the same thing over again but, we have not heard anything yet. Would that take long time before they reply. Any info are welcomed.

Keep on keeping on!

I wish my journey has the same outcome as yours does. My husband is now trying to find anyway out, but it seems we keep running into dead ends. People that promise us they can get him out, Mr.I will get you a connection in the army, Shady lawyers that talk in circles, and such... We haven't trusted them enough to listen to their false promises. Sadly, I'm beginning to think my husband has no way out of this, Ya Allah help us, but we still have a little bit of hope. If we crack the code, I will be writing to you all. :) But for now, we are breathing air as thick as water. 1-3 years of his life? My husband is a very formal guy, follows the rules, and I even wondered if, when he was being interviewed by the guy, if he acted not mentally sound, just acted insane, would that do him any good towards exclusion from the draft? Lol. Im on a dream boat here. Its ok, we are both young. In 3 years he will be 24. So, thank God we started young. Im 19, and I should really finish college by then, we will keep updating our case with the immigration services, NVC in the U.S as they postpone expiration an additional year every time you call them! :) Thats good news. So, I'm sure we will make it out of this, InshaAllah! Until we come to terms with our fate, I will keep you updated you all. Thanks, btw, your post was beautiful Hassan's wife, and allot more people.

military service

I am married to an egyptian, it is 7 months now that we have been married even though we have been in relation for 3 years. We love each other very much. he is in the army now. he told them that we are married so he had to fill 4 applications and he was told he should not be there. his training time is nearly over. everyday they tell they will ask you to come for interrogation and of course nothing happen. they treat them very badly. I wonder if anyone have some information about such issue.

They ask you to come for

They ask you to come for interrogation??? You or him or both??? Oooooh, my husband registered a few weeks ago and now with all of this awful stuff going on out there I'm desperate for some good news that he might not have to do it. It's such an awful time. I'm in UK at the moment as I have kids here from a previous relationship. It's so heartbreaking, this whole situation. The men don't deserve this treatment.

God bless them all and keep them safe.

No they said he may need to

No they said he may need to go for interrrogation with (miokabarat) intelligence. he spoke with me yesterday. He said they may give him a holiday on the 12th of Feb but only if the the situation get better. The problem i do not know if I should book my ticket or not. I have never been stressed in my life as I am now. Does anyone know anything about those (mokabarat). Please help.

Any news?

Hi again,
Has there been any progress for you and your hubby? My husband was recommended as an officer at his medical, waiting to know more about whether he'll get postponed on sunday or whether they'll take him or not.
I think all Westerners take their freedom for granted, I certainly did before meeting my husband.
I hope it's good news for you.

Hi He was taken as a soldier

Hi

He was taken as a soldier for security so, they have to stay in a garage where officer park their car. He will work for 12 hours then have 12 hours free. The problem living conditions their is very poor a lot poorer than our thoughts can go, it is chocking. We still waiting to hear more !!!!!

Hi My partner is doing the

Hi

My partner is doing the same thing he is working nights and then has to get sleep during the days but I have only managed to speak to him once since he started but he does manage to text me every day. He wont tell me any of the details either just that its worse than even he had ever thought it would be. He is living for his next vacation when I will be going back over to see him. Do you manage to talk with your partner regularly?
All we can do is wait and be there because most of the guys who are doing the service are doing it so that they can be with us so as difficult as it is we have to stay strong which some days Im not finding easy as it can become a very lonely place waiting for information.

Look after yourself and I hope you get some good news sooner rather than later.

Can he marry me?

I have asked this before here but I think I did not get a satisfactory answer. I am a woman from Costa Rica (Central America) If I love a man who is 26 years old and he has brother in the army, can he marry me? He told me it will affect his brother in the army so he cannot marry with me. Is this true?

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