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.



Hi Did he get exempted on the


Did he get exempted on the ground that he is married to you as a foreigner.

Hello: Yes he did. I am


Yes he did. I am unsure of the exact wording but it's because we are married. After all the investigating I am a security threat.

I dont know what steps are to follow, but so far we have just done what they asked of us. Now all that remains is him returning in a few months time for the final copy signed and stamped/sealed. Then he will apply for a visa and inshallah he will be able to come here.

If anyone knows anything of the next stages in our journey we would love to have all the hints advice or information you may have.

Hi Sorry that I keep


Sorry that I keep bombarding you with questions but I am really desperate for informations. Did he serve at all in the army, as my husband is serving now and how long it took all together.

Thank you very much for your help.

My e.mail is

married n military service

Can you tell me which country ur from and what your husband had to do to get exempted please? also, how long the process took? Im usa citizen my husband is egyptian 27 last year at a university. He just recieved his visa to come to the usa its a perminent green card so he is coming in to live and work as a regular resident. He went to the military to get a permision to leave the country since he never served in the army but they are giving him hard time. The visa will expire in 6 months. He told them that he is in his last year of study and did not mentioned anything about our marriage and visa to usa. Should he tell them? Is there a law that does not allow the military to separate a husband from a wife, since he has all the papers from us embassy?

im married to an egyption and im british

can anyone help me and give me some advise, im married to an eyption man for the past 15 months , my husband s in cairo and im hee we were hoping to get him to uk , but the army service has said they will take him in for 3 yrs as a officer , is this the case or does anyone know otherwise , wich means i will be left here away from my husband , is it the case that he should be exemp from military service since hes married to a british national please can anyone enlighten me on this issue please

I am not sure of what the law

I am not sure of what the law is but think it is law six section 4. That is what we have been told now, and in a bit over a month from now he will return to the office to get a signed document saying he is exempt from the army. there are conditions to it like if we divorce before he is 30 then he will serve, or something along those lines.

I am under the impression it has to do with the revolution that perhaps the military is trying to deflect a conflict of interest?? just a guess though, we really thought he would serve. it would have been easier if he did too as we've been dealing with this all for a year and if he does go thats the same length of time he will serve.since there is still a chance they change thier minds(untill the paper is in his hands, signed and sealed i am not holding my breath), then the time gets extended from whenere they do take him...time will only tell, but i hope Godhears my prayers and those of you who are also waiting to go on with your lives also.

It may not have been an easy path to choose, but to be with my husband it is one I glady would time and time again.

Best of luck to you all.

I don't know if you still

I don't know if you still read this but if you could let us know some more details of what you went through, where you were located at the time (abroad, here), what nationality you are, what your husband had to do, etc, that would be great. If you would like to keep it private, I would be eternally grateful if you could email me at rehaam[at]gmail[dot]com. I am facing the same issue and we have our whole life on hold for this :(

Pakistani Girl- Egyptian Husband

Dear Khalid,
Im marrying an egyptian this summer and were very worried about his service and were looking for ways for him to get exemption.
Im Pakistani, so would he get an exemption?coz Pakistan does not give nationalities to foreign husbands.
and whats the procedure for "PERMISSION TO GET A FOREIGN NATIONALITY"

Jazak- Allah


My boyfriend is an Officer in the Army(sensitive job)(he went through military college).. He was told by his superiors he can not marry a foreigner.. But if he was to marry a foriegner, he would stand to lose his job in the army and possibly spend time in jail..There was some comment about there being an allowance if you married an American..Any comments appreciated pls..

dear I am not sure of what the law

Dear I am not sure of what the law comment poster,

Could i please speak to you personally, id be really really grateful, we have the same thing going on, so i wanna know details.
Thanksss !
Waiting desperately!