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.



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!


hi im worrying now, i have an egyptian boyfriend we plan to get married soon and he said he will be exempt from the military service but what ive read on here this is not true.. im just wondering if we lived in egypt together we dont want to travel anywhere will they just notice him in the street and take him to the army?

I hope this helps...

I am not sure that he will have to serve or not, each situation is different depending on your nationality and family. I am American and my husband is Egyptian, we are going through this process now. I will tell you what has happened so far...and no the army won't just take him from the street.
My husband has finished college and done 3 steps for the army, given all his personal information like university degree and marriage info, physical exam and gotten his military ID. The army has told him he will begin his service Jan 22nd 2015 for 14 months. Recently, we found out that his marriage ppwk was missing from his military file, he was told by a family friend in the military that his marriage ppwk was burned...I don't know if this is true or not. Today he took additional copies of our marriage ppwk to the army base and they told him that he will meet with an intelligence officer in Cairo after Dec 3rd and they want me to send proof of my family's military info due to my brother is Master Sgt. in the US Army and my uncle is in National Security Technology dept. We have been lucky so far, his friends and family having military connections have been a great help to us, if not for them the army would have most likely concealed his marriage and taken him for 3 years which is not really a horrible thing unless our marriage info comes out after the start of his military service because the army could see this as a security risk and possibly put him in jail.
Each time he goes to the base and completes a step they will tell him when to return for the next step and so on...they will give him a date when he will go for training and how long he will serve. After training I think he will go straight to his post where he will serve.

Best Wishes and Good Luck!

Husband never served in military

My husband entered the US close to twenty years ago. He left Egypt before serving in the military. He is now 40, has a younger brother who served in the military and his father is deceased. His Egyptian passport is expired and he is living here in the US legally with a green card. He will not be eligible for US citizenship for at least four years. If he tries to renew his Egyptian passport, what will happen since he never served in the military? Will he just need to pay a fine and if so, how much? Or will he be in trouble when he enters Egypt? Would they force him to serve his military time or imprison him? Will he be able to visit his family in Egypt?

There is a chance

People above a certain age (40 or less) are not drafted in the military. He can go to the embassy and ask for his situation to be finalized, pay a fine, and get an exempt status. After that he can get his passport renewed.

Military exemptions

My question is I am am an Anerican I just married an egyptian citizen. He has not fulfilled his military requirements and is 25. However if he obtained a medical certificate for exemption, what does that process entail? How long for an answer? What medical conditions are approved exempt? Thanks

No such thing ...

There is no such thing as "medical certificate" that can exempt someone. The army does not approve any third party's paperwork. They have to do the medical exam themselves, upon the person being called for service. As for medical conditions that cause exemptions, they vary, including very poor eyesight, heart disease, or disabilities.

If he is telling you that a report from a civilian physician will help, then most probably he is fooling you.

us citizen

Hi I'm a us citizen and me and my husband have been married for four years. Before marriage he had gotten postponed/t2aagel from Egypt military and came to USA. Now he is a us citizen and 26 years old if he enters and leaves with only us passport as an American citizen will it cause any problems? Will they request any paperwork? Or will they just let him leave since he is now obtained us citizenship? Thanks

Safe ...

It is safe for him to enter and leave Egypt provided that he uses the US passport ONLY.