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.



How can my Egyptian fiancee travel without army exemption

I am sorry to hear these stories and have to admit that I was suspisious about my future husband whom is Egyptian and who has left the military. He left without permission because of personal reasons and now the officers are telling him that he has to go to jail for 3 months and then continue his enlistment or he can wait until he is 30 before he can travel or he can pay a large sum of money to get papers to travel now. He will not take money from me...I have offered. He currently is working very hard jobs for little pay and very long 16-18 hour days. We are trying to figure out a way to get him to America NOW, but the only thing he thinks he can do is to work and pay his way out. He refuses to go to jail and back into the military. He did suggest that I move to Egypt and wait with him until he is 30. This way we will be married and together...but we both agree that we would rather have him in America with me. Is there any way that is legal that we can get him papers to travel so he can leave now? Also we do not know if it is better to marry in Egypt or America (if he can leave now) to help him in getting a green card, or whatever you call it

i know what you mean he

i know what you mean he is'nt squeaky clean my marriage is in trouble im just finding it hard to accept it coz im pregnant. I can't understand why he can't get a certificate from uni and just travel, the whole military thing was made up must have been since he's suppose to be studying and exempt from it. I don't know what he thinks will change after 1 year he can't be doing this for residency it's hard trying to get him to come back, if he does come in a year only time will tell if we hold on to this relationship, he's told me to go there with the baby i'v told him no way i'v travelled 4 times for him in 1 year and i stayed there for 4 months for he's visa, he's gone and can't even return i can't keep going there i have to worry about my future too. Do u think it's a right decision i dont see myself living there. Also surely the university would allow him a certificate if he explained our situation, i dont' think he's sure on what he wants and im suffering in the process he tells me he doesnt want to be there for 1 second yet i dont' know what he's tried doing to get back.

Not made up, but convenient

The military service may or may not be made up. It could be a convenient excuse for him.

I can understand him saying he does not want to stay in Egypt, having heard continuously bad things about the economy for the past years.

Hope everything works out for you in the end, either way ...
Khalid Baheyeldin

Is it True, Husband can stop

Is it True,

Husband can stop he's wife from leaving Egypt? I'm English married to an Egyptian man I will go for a holiday with my son but i'v been told by he's friend he will try and keep me there is that possible with me and my son being a foreigner can he do that to us?

Nothing to do with army service


This question is off-topic, since it has nothing to do with army service in Egypt.

Not sure how well you can trust the friend, vs. your husband.

I am not sure what the law says here, but since you are on Egyptian soil, things may not go to your favor.

Having a British passport means you can go out and in as you please. If your son has a British passport too, then he can also go out and in at will. The issue is if your husband holds on to the passport(s).

If you are fearful or suspicious then you have to rethink the relationship as a whole, not just the trip to Egypt.
Khalid Baheyeldin

Hi thanks but i'm trying to

Hi thanks but i'm trying to get my head round it all i feel like the military service is nothing to do with the problem that has been made up on the whole since he's exempt if he's studying (not really working in Sharm) he has just turned 24, I think the bigger issue is he's not sure if what he want's maybe he want's a year out.
Do you know why the Uni couldn't just let him have a certificate since he's waste of space anyway not in Uni and working for peanuts in Sharm he wont serve the Army he's no need to lying he's in Uni so really what good is he in he's country?? Dont' get me wrong I love him with all my heart and think i can provide him a better future in England job family future security things he can only dream of!!!

Rules are rules

"What good is he" has no bearing on how the laws work. The rules are rules, and the service is compulsory. Temporary exemptions are provided for stated reasons, with no regard to the use or lack thereof of the person.

As I said before, perhaps the university issues the travel certificate only in summer, since that is the only time without classes. Since nowadays is a study term that is why they refusal. I don't know for sure if that is the case, or he is making it all up.

Perhaps like you said, he is undecided or overwhelmed by the new life (marriage, different language, different culture, ...etc.)

Wish you the best ...
Khalid Baheyeldin

1 last question, May Allah

1 last question,

May Allah Bless you for helping me understand it all.

My last question to you is this if he's 24 and studying (supposedly) then he's exempt of military service right? like you said he can get postponement.

I just want to know if it's solely just the cert he needs to concentrate on from the uni and if that's the case why he made the whole military thing up alarm bells start ringing then.

I have just asked him to be honest with me i will talk to him later when he finishe's work but i want to get my head round it so i know if he's telling the truth. To be honest im prepared to hear the truth whatever it is just want to confirm it with you.

Jazakallah may Allah reward you for helping a pregnant women


Yes, postponement. Which means he eventually has to serve, but has a valid reasons (according to laws) not to do so for some time.

For any male Egyptian to go out of Egypt on an Egyptian passport, his military status has to be evaluated by the passport control officer.

If they are within the age of service (16 or 18 to 35 or 40, can't remember the exact age), they have to either:

1. Produce a certificate of completion of service AND a travel permit from the military (which is almost automatic if one has served already, but yet another paper to get with some hassle).

2. Some people are able to get a stamp on their Egyptian passport saying "Not wanted for military service" after a certain period from completion (maybe one year?). I heard that this is no longer issued, don't know why.

3. Produce a certificate of exemption (e.g. medical reasons or having no male siblings).

4. Produce a certificate of temporary postponement and a travel permit.

His case is probably number 4 above. He has the passport and the army is not after him to join, since he is nominally registered in a university. Perhaps he cannot get that travel permit because it is not summer time yet. I am not aware of the exact details, but it sounds like something plausible.

If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, then it is a valid reason. If there are other red flags in the relationship, then it is up to you to evaluate those against this information.

Sorry if I am overly suspicious, but from what I have read in the comments to this thread by you and others, there is a lot of fraud going on by Egyptians, and it makes me sad to see others suffer because of that.
Khalid Baheyeldin

No way i think your doing a

No way i think your doing a great job your helping people and trust me when your in a different country and you weigh pro's and con's you want to be sure know where you stand in the relationship, My case is no different. I thankyou sincerely from the bottom of my heart you have answer'd my questions.
Yes there sure is a red flag that is my husband wants he's wife to live with him he doesn't want to leave he's country or family but he's torn in between wife and child coz we won't move there. He's trying to buy time uni is just a good excuse as for military that was utter rubbish and i hate him for lying!

anyway kind regards for everything i'll sure mention you in my dawaa's jazakallah ma'salaama.