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.



ok just spoke to him turns

ok just spoke to him turns out he was exempt last few years at uni but now he would have to serve military, which he doesn't want to do he is 24 he mentions he would have to join a new uni or something of the kind to be honest im just so emotional i feel like ending my relationship with him,although he's trying to save this relationship i just find it hard to trust him its all too much for me.

dear pregnant Anonymous...

...I feel very sorry for you, that you are in such an emotional struggle, but before you end up your relationship, as Mr. Baheyeldin said, wait until the doubt is proven. It can be exactly as Mr. Baheyeldin wrote. My husband had the same problem as yours, (with the difference that he really wanted to come again, and we just wanted to do all the legal way). He just wanted to come back after his exams,(correctly what was said about postponement, and paper to get out, max. of 3 months, only! in the holidays of university), this means, only in june/july and january. So here your boyfriend/husband is not lying.
After 3 years of waiting, my husband is now finally coming and really, we had a lot to do now with the military court, so just be patient and give him the chance. In your case time will show. It is true that there are a lot of liars on the road, but the trouble is also that even the good ones among them now are under suspicion.
So just take care and give him time, and don't stop talking and asking!

Dear Mr. Baheyeldin, I think you are a very honest and life experienced man and you have earned my deep estimation!

hi thanks for this comment i

hi thanks for this comment i know my husband he's so upset he tells me to go live with him until he get's this paper but i don't want to, you mentioned January is it possible to get this uni paper then? He's tired of thinking about way's to come, I do give him a hard time. We originally came in September this year and he went back within the month now he's stuck. Your comments have eased my mind i have stopped doubting him to be honest due to him feeling vulnerable at the thought of never seeing he's wife and child. We will be ok inshallah i have faith. Thankyou for your comments and keep in touch Mr Baheyeldin has been amazing help please email me on Don't want to take up the whole of this blog with my issues!!

England vs Egypt Government

Dear Pregnant Girl why don't you ask your Local Prime Minister to draught out a letter
stating your husband's sitution in England and send it off to your husband.
Mr Bahyeldin will the Government in Egypt help this girl? Or will it have no impact?

Curious and would like to help.

Don't depend on this working ...

Well, you have two countries with two different laws.

Even if she can get such a letter easily, I don't see another government bending its laws just to appease a foreign country.

What she can do though is call the Egyptian Consulate in London and request clarifications on the laws that pertain to her husband's case.
Khalid Baheyeldin

Can you help with some answers on military stuff for my egyptian

Hallo.I have seen advices from you and come to you with the following:
I am french living in Holland. I met my egyptian husband(husband since 1 year and a half now)2 years 1/2 ago and he is living with me in Holland since oct 2008. Our marriage is legally registered in France, Holland and Egypt.

He was a student in egypt and finished his studies. He is, it seems, exempted from the "long " military service because he is the only son in the family.
However, while he was a student he was summoned to do a " short " military service for one month (related to students)(he told me)->He was twice exempted of this A) medical reason B) they told him :or you can be exempted but you dont get your diploma- or you get your diploma and you have to do one month. He chose not to have the diploma and therefore not to do one month.
And everytime he came to holland he had a military paper authorising him to leave egypt.

Recently , (after 1 year!) the court in egypt summoned him to say that it is now compulsory for him to do this " short" military service(one month)although he was exempted .
He is there, hired a lawyer and they showed all the papers that he was exempted and he was allowed to leave egypt, still the result is they told him ->he has a huge fine to pay or jail for one year!!!.

My first question is:
What is the difference between the " long" military service and this " short" military service (one month)related to the students ..?
or is there no difference? If no difference, why they summoned him while he was exempted as he is the only son in the family?

second question:
why they just dont sentence him to do the month service instead of jail if he cannot pay?

i saw a comment saying the following:" Some Egyptians evade conscription and travel overseas until they reach the age of thirty, at which point they are tried, pay a $580 fine (as of 2004), and are dishonorably discharged. Such an offense, legally considered an offense of "bad moral character", prevents the "unpatriotic" citizen from ever holding public office.
-> Is he going to be safe after that then if he can pay?

Thank you for helping. I dont understand whats happening, am very worried and dont know what to think. Is this all nonsense?.
Ill call the egyptian embassy here but not sure if they will answer me.

Thank you


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Be careful

Be careful with such offers from unknown people posting only an email.

This could be a scam to get money and provide nothing.

If you want it done right, do it via your consulate in Egypt, or through a local well known lawyer who would hire whom they see fit.


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