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.




Thanks for the new information.

I had a friend who had a German mother, and he did serve, but as a soldier, because he has a non-Egyptian mother. I imagine this is why they investigated the guy with the Sudanese mother.

The permanent exemption and stamp in passport makes sense because he was denied service in the army based on his marriage to a foreigner.

As for the cousin getting exemption, this is new information to me.

As for the army forcing a divorce, this is contrary to both civil and religious law, since it is against the husband's will. So I am puzzled by that. Yes, they can apply pressure, because they see this as a possible security risk for the country, but they can't force a divorce. Also, there is a difference between enlisted and career officers.

You said they give him a choice of divorce or leaving the army, but his case was that he was a career officer not an enlisted one. Enlisted people are looking for any chance to get out, and this will be a golden one. If the army gives this choice to an enlisted officer, they will glady chose to quit.

Career officers make their living by being in the army and have chosen that path earlier before marrying a foreigner, and so it is harder for them to quit since they have to find work outside the army, ...etc.

American married to man in military

   Hello all, I have made posting on here when I married my husband in May of 2008, they are not to marry during there military time, he was aware of this and we did it anyway. He has been call to Cairo for interagation a few times and will go one more time in the next few weeks. I also had to send him a copy of my passport. But they have told him never that he would have to divorce me, its more a matter of concern that I may be a spy or our marriage is fake. I have been to Egypt 3 times this year alone and we both love each other very much, as well as his family stands behind us 100%. We know we are facing a long road ahead of us but he is finishing his time sept. 1 2009 so not very long. My biggest concern is that he will be able to come to the USA with only a passport, I read a lady mention a stamp. I know they have told him they could stamp his military papers as non trusting and would make it hard for him to get a decent job in Egypt. But the military was honest with him as he was them, telling him our intentions after his time spent was for him to come to the states. Love is strong and no one can ever tear that away from us. So we just stay in the moment and have faith that everything will work out.

Also to the women wanting to connect with other americans in same situation you can feel free to email me if you like at




Egyptian military

Does anyone know when men serving in the egyptian military get vacation or are able to contact the outside world

please someone advise me and send me your reply my email addess

my son has a dual nationality - he is also egyptian now he has been asked to go to military service, he has a letter of naturalization to prove that he has another nationality , but he does no thave the passport yet- is this a problem? does he have to go to the service until he makes a pasport or could he just show them this document and be exempetd from the service??if he doestn go to the service what will happen??


In regards to the comment made by the question of vacation time. When my husband was in training last Jan. for 3 months he was not able to have his phone. Now that he is in his camp, he is able to keep his phone and we talk at least 3 times a week and also send text messages. The vacation is the tricky part. There are no certain times, the last time I went I had only a few days notice and I went for my 3rd time in July. They are not a organized bunch thats for sure compared to USA military. Hope this helps.

45 days military training

I'm hearing different stories that some men finish their training before the 45 days are up and then have a break. Does anyone know if this is true or do they have to carry out the full 45 days before they can have a break? My fiance started his training on 6th January 2009 and is to do 13 months in the military. I just wanted to know when I should expect to hear from him. Any help will be good.

Exemption certificate


I just wanted to ask how long it takes to get an army exemption certificate My egyptian boyfriend is 23 and has only his mother and an older sister. He had an older brother who died in a fire at 15 and his dad also died shortly after. I believe he is entitled to an army exemption certificate. I would like to know how long it wil take him to get, will it cost money? How long after can he get a passport? and after how long would he be able to travel.

Officer draft

My boyfriend has been drafted into the army.. However he has been told he must go as an officer - which he does NOT want to do.
He does not mind a one year service.. and recognises this duty..
However, he wants to leave his country to be with me. to work, live etc and eventually marry.
Is there any way we can stop him having to be an officer for three years, as he will not continue in the army so is a waste of money and time..
Any thoughts/help will be greatly appreciated.

I am an american and wanting

I am an american and wanting to marry a man from Egypt. He has been choosen to go to Army for 3 years. He wants to get it down to 1 year. Does anyone know how he can do this? How long after he is out of Army can we get married and see about getting him citizenship to America? I dont understand their laws and dont understand how they can tear love apart like this. He goes for last check up on Sunday to find out if he has to serve as Officer. We have both been Physically ill over all this. Most important question is can we still have contact as I am still in USA. We talk on messenger and so can we still do that or can we write to eachother in old fashion mail. Please can someone answer these questions? And is there a way to find out if someone is listed in the Army?

its hard being in love with men from there and waitting so long

Hi ,im from canada and was married to man from egypt may 2007 im still waitting and he did not even start military yet:( i do not know how long they will keep him for :( i think he will start this oct not sure ...but the waitting is so hard ...can u add me to messenger my id name is its_me_jessicaaaa on yahoo messenger i hope things go ok for u and ur situation with ur man ur with:) God bless