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

He is stringing her on

Unfortunately you will have an uphill battle in trying to convince your friend that she is being scammed. When he "disappears" it will be your turn to step in and support her. These men have no scruples and the scam can take years to perpetuate whilst they "groom" the woman.

Appreciate any answer please

Al salam alaikom!,hi there please i am legally married for 8 years in my country with an egyptian guy and we have a baby;but unfortunately he did not finish his military yet he was in the college when came to Brazil,now we came back to his country to try solve the problem of his military service,we will translate our marriage paper also our baby birth certificate to show hes married with a foreigner and made a family! could it help for he do not serve? he is the only person who is responsible for me and our baby in Egypt! or shall i make other papers like a letter from my embassy to help?I heard who is married with a foreigner and make family can not serve as the policy of the country.I really appreciate any answer.
Thanks in advance!

Army Info For My Egyptian Fiancee

Hello,

I'm not sure if you can help me!! I'm a 25 year old English girl currently engaged to an Egyptian man. We have been together for 4 years and we have a 5 month old baby. We really want to settle in the UK because he has no family in Egypt as his mother and father died when he was young. I don't want to move to Egypt because i have a lot of family here and i have a good stable job which is hard to find lately. We really want to be family and leave together bringing up our child together as a couple. The problem is he has to go in the Army for 4 years and I don't want him to because that means he will miss 4 years of his son's life. I was wondering if you could help me get him out of going into the army so we can be a family. I would really appreciate your help or any advise you can give me.

Thank you very much

Army info for egyptian fiance

hey.. Be careful.. The longest enlistment is three years if he is selected as an officer, or if he has no university qualification. Other then that is one year.. Egypt is a nice place to live.. But could be lonely as a Westerner..... Find out more.....

Hiya, Thanks for your reply.

Hiya,

Thanks for your reply. I couldn't remember if he said to me 3 or 4 years, i asked him again and he said 3 years, it's still a long time and i just want to get it sorted so we can be a family together. We're just trying to find a way around it. I've told him to go to school/college and he wont have to go and he can get a passport, so he can travel and come o England for a while. Maybe we can sort something here. I don't know, i'm just desperate to get him here so he and my son can bond. He is missing so much of his life and it breaks my heart knowing i can't do anything to help him.

Will the Egypt Army Detain him?

I am from usa, my husband is from Egypt/Iraq and we have been married for 4 years. He has lived in the USA with me for 4 years, and been a permanent USA resident for 2 years now. We have applied for his USA citizenship and are waiting for his testing date. Now my question is this...when he left egypt, he got a paper excusing him from the army because he has dual citizenship from Egypt and Iraq, however the paper was only good for 3 months.. We want to go back and visit and he is worried that they will try to detain him because his army excuse paper is expired 4 years ago..but he is a permanent usa resident awaiting his citizenship? What do you think should we travel or not??? Really worried about this :(

National service for egyptians

My Egyptian husband was called to return to the army 3 weeks ago,He has completed his national service of 2 years in 2009,I understand there is the 9 year reserve obligation service.I would like to know how long he will be in the army this time?

US military

I am married to a Egyptian and I am entering the US Navy. He just filled out his application and is going to send in his paperwork about him being married to an American. Since I am entering the US Navy will he be exempted from the military there in Egypt?

my husband is in last yr of uni is he exempt from army

Hi guys i just want to know i married my Egyptian husband in Egypt last April and he is in last year of uni as he failed 4 exams and has 2 retake them because army will not let him travel before he finishes is that true because im going out of my mind can he postpone his studies and go back after 3 years. He says he can,t but i have heard he can travel without finishing uni and because he married uk citizen.

Paying to avoid extra army service after completing conscription

I have a friend who has met and is having a long distance relationship from the UK with an Egyptian man. He has completed his compulsory army service, but has recently been 'called-up' again for 6 weeks - I think due to the current trouble in Cairo which is where he will be 'stationed'. He has said that he can get out of this service, but only by paying a huge sum of money (equivalent to £2500 GBP). Is this normal practice or is it a bribe that he is going to have to try and pay? And if he serves this additional 6 weeks now is he likely to be called on to do the same again, or have this period of service extended? I know that he is very scared of going to Cairo, and his family are against him going. There is also a small part of me that is concerned for my friend, I know she trusts him and he certainly seems to be genuine with her, but I would like to know if this is something that you've heard about happening as I'm struggling to find anything about it online myself. If it is all genuine do you think it is likely that he will be able to contact her while he is in service in Cairo? Many thanks for your time!

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