The Turkey-based ‘Egyptian Revolutionary Council’ called upon Egyptian soldiers and officers to quit their position in different army posts, and join sides of the people’s revolution, marking a development in the oppositions view on army service in the country.
The calls were made in a statement published by the council on the anniversary of the 6th of October War.
The group said: “This day marks the 42nd anniversary of the 6th of October War, while the military regime lead by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is fully agreeing to terms of the ‘the enemy” and is working as a close ally on their behalf against Palestinians and Arabs.”
It added: “We acknowledge the existence of personnel in the military institution who are complaining secretly of what the ‘coup’ leaders are doing, from treason to the Egyptian military heritage.”
“We ask the soldiers and officers of the armed forces to join the masses that will go out and liberate Egypt from the gang which controlled the military institution, and changed the role of the army from that of protecting the people against foreign enemies and protecting the boarders to that of killing people by weapons that the masses bought with their money.”
The council, which has been aiming to form a parallel parliament and government against the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, warned “everyone in the military institution to reconsider his position, before the Egyptian’s revolt… choosing either to side with the people or with the revolution”.
The military spokesperson was not available for comment on the issue. However, a former military colonel said that such calls are common from “radical Islamist opposition”. He added that there are divisions in the army that investigate the political inclinations of all members in the army institutions.
“After the assassination of Anwar Al-Sadat, an intelligence facility started to investigate if officers or soldiers have political affiliations. Similar calls by jihadist groups were made in the 1980s for soldiers to leave service to avoided being killed, but this never affected the army or its institutions,” he added.
On 6 October, 1981, Al-Sadat was shot by “Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’ members of the army during a military parade.
After the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, several Islamist entities called upon members and affiliates not to join the army or to run away from their military posts.
Many youth movements, such as Students Against the Coup (SAC) and Ultras Nahdawy, have launched campaigns demanding that its members refrain from “reporting to the military after finishing their school years”. They requested their members not be a part of a “military that kills its own people”.
Muslim Brotherhood leader Gamal Heshmat also said that “Egyptians should prevent their relatives from joining the army”. He added that the “truth was revealed concerning the crimes of the police and the army”, saying that in many attacks conscripted soldiers die without protection from their superiors.
Dar Al-Ifta, which is the official entity in Egypt responsible for interpreting the Quran and issuing religious edicts (fatwas), said the calls are close enough to being “high treason”. The institution also claimed that the calls are “on the same side with the Islamic State”.
“The statement supports the efforts of the Islamic State to target the police and military apparatuses,” Dar Al-Ifta said, adding that members of the Muslim Brotherhood were supportive of the army “when they were in power”.
Dar Al-Ifta added that “refusing to do the military service is religiously forbidden, and security is a main pillar of the Muslim society”. It also said that the Islamic Shari’a law asserted the importance of “Jihad”, and the role of armies in blocking invasions and enemies.
However, his comments on conscription are not the first of their kind. After Morsi’s ouster and the involvement of army’s ground forces in dispersals and raids, anti-government forces heavily attacked the army, describing it as a tool of the regime.
Conscientious objection and refusing to serve in the military is not an established trend in Egyptian society, as the army is considered one of the main pillars of the modern Egyptian state.
Only one anti-military, pacifist campaign exists in Egypt, “No to Compulsory Military Service”, which was founded as a Facebook page in 2009. The group recently became a member of War Resisters International, a London-based global pacifist and anti-militarist network with 80 affiliated groups in 40 countries.
Activist Maikel Nabil Sanad started the group with the intention of “abolishing all traits of militarist rule”. Sanad, who calls himself the first conscientious objector in Egypt, released a statement on 21 October, 2010, entitled “I will not serve in the Egyptian army and I bear the consequences”, in which he explained his reasons for objecting to service.
“I am [a] pacifist, against holding weapons, against joining the military formations and paramilitary,” he wrote. “Accepting the recruitment would be coercion against my conscientious beliefs and my humanistic principles.”
Under Egyptian law, males of a specific age are obliged to undertake military service, with a period ranging from one to three years.
Soldiers can spend their draft in the army or the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF). Males of lower educational levels serve in the CSF, a paramilitary force responsible for fighting riots and guarding embassies.
The law states that the police or the military police have the right to arrest those who do not serve, and that these individuals could possibly receive a two year prison sentence, in addition to a fine of between EGP 2,000 and EGP 5,000.