10 Surprising Countries With Mandatory Military Service

Mandatory military service is a thing of the past in many countries in 2023, with fewer and fewer nations calling their 18-year-olds up to serve their country.

However, it does still persist in many parts of the world. Let’s take a look at some of those countries that continue to insist on compulsory military service. 

Do any of these countries with mandatory military service surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!

The IDF in Israel 

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One of the most famous examples of mandatory military service is Israel. All able-bodied Israelis, whether male or female, are conscripted at the age of 18. 

There are several exemptions to this. Male Torah students can choose to opt-out, as can Jewish females who do not wish to serve on the basis of their religion.

Israeli Arabs do not need to serve, though they can volunteer if they wish. Married and/or pregnant women are also exempt, as are those who are physically or mentally unwell. 

Men serve for two years and eight months, while women serve for two years. Conscientious objectors are rare; more common is a refusal to serve in the Palestinian-majority areas of the West Bank or Gaza.

Israelis who refuse such service may be reassigned to a different area, or they may be imprisoned. 


Arnold Schwarzenegger serving as a tank driver in the Austrian Army in 1965.
Arnold Schwarzenegger serving as a tank driver in the Austrian Army in 1965.

Military service is mandatory in Austria until the age of 35 for all able-bodied men. This does not mean they need to serve until the age of 35; rather, they must serve for 6 months at any point between the ages of 18-35. 

Conscientious objectors do not need to serve in the military but can instead opt for the civilian branch (Zivildienst in German).

If opting for this, participants must serve for 9 months rather than 6. Alternatively, they may serve 12 months in the Peace, Social, or Holocaust Memorial Services. 

Women have been able to voluntarily enter military service since 1998 but are not required to do so. 

One of the most well-known conscripts of the Austrian Army was arguably Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served in 1965 and even won the Junior Mr. Europe contest during his service!


Bermuda is an overseas territory of the UK. Despite its parent country no longer having conscription, Bermuda does; males from 18-32 are automatically entered into a lottery, with conscripts being drawn at random from that pool. 

In 2013, the Bermudan government committed to ending national service. However, because of the already-low numbers in their military, they are doing so gradually. 


Cyprus has a lengthy compulsory military service term that begins for all Greek Cypriot males at the age of 18 and lasts until they’re 50.

They must serve 14 months within the military, followed by service as a reservist until the age of 50. As a reservist, men are usually called up for 1-2 days a year. 

Cyprus’ compulsory military service is actually in contravention of international law, as they conscript non-citizens who have ‘Cypriot origins’. International law forbids assigning civic duties to non-citizens. 

Conscientious objection is permitted, but such objectors are generally required to fulfill an alternative military or civilian service instead. This is decided on a case-by-case basis. 


Iran has a lengthy conscription period that begins at the age of 18 and requires all able-bodied males to serve for two years in either the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Iranian Army. 

Students are exempt for the period of time during which they’re studying, and exceptions are made for those with physical or mental disabilities. The two-year service period may also be shortened under certain circumstances. 

Conscientious objection is not permitted under Iranian law. Men who refuse to serve are subject to severe punishments, which include but are not limited to the denial of access to health insurance, further education, a passport, or opening a bank account. 


Military service in Egypt is mandatory for males aged between 18-30. They must serve for between 18-36 months, depending on whether or not they need to pause their service for studies or other obligations. This active service is followed by a mandatory 9-year period as a reservist. 

An oddity of Egyptian military service is that males are only eligible for service if they have at least one other male sibling; if this is not the case, then males are not eligible for conscription. 

There are special provisions made for college graduates who perform military service; they are given an elevated rank over non-graduates and are given the option to stay in the military past the expiration of their service period. 


Conscription has been in effect in Taiwan since the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

Throughout the years, the amount of time that men were required to serve was shortened, starting at 24 months in 1949 and gradually being reduced to 1 year. 

In the late 2010s, Taiwan completely abolished mandatory military service; however, after tensions flared with China in 2022, the government announced plans to reinstate its conscription program in 2024.

Beginning in January of that year, all able-bodied males will be required to serve a 12-month term. 


All able-bodied males from the age of 21 to 41 years of age are required to serve for at least 6 months.

The Turkish Conscription Law came into effect in 1919 and has remained unchanged since then. 

Turkish conscripts can be deployed to any part of the Turkish military, with two exceptions: they are not sent to active conflicts or combat operations. In many regards, this makes Turkish military service one of the safer ones worldwide. 

Women are not obliged to serve in the Turkish military, but they may do so if they wish. If they do so, they become officers. 

North Korea 

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Unsurprisingly, North Korea, one of the most militarized nations on earth, has mandatory military service.

Males in the DPRK are eligible for conscription from 17-30; women are sometimes conscripted, but the criteria under which they are is unknown. 

The children of North Korean party elites are exempt from conscription, as are those deemed to have poor social status within the country.

The numbers needed for conscription are decided by the Central Military Commission for the Worker’s Party of Korea, and local schools are left to decide who is called up. 


Conscription in Russia is one of the few Imperial Russian edicts that survives to this day – it was implemented in 1874. 

All Russian males from the ages of 18-27 are required to serve a 12-month draft in the Russian military.

There are certain exceptions: men with two children or more, university students, and those with a medical certificate demonstrating unfitness for duty are not required to serve. 

Attempting to dodge the draft is considered a crime under Russian law and is punishable by up to 2 years in prison. 

In Conclusion, There are 85 Countries With Mandatory Military Service

Obviously, we haven’t even begun to cover all the countries with mandatory military service worldwide.

From Thailand to Tunisia, there are 85 countries in total that require military service from their citizens. Which would you like to see on a second list? 

RavenCrest Tactical


From Eastern Ukraine to the mountains of Chechnya, Jay has spent the better part of a decade working on the ground as a security consultant in some of the world's most high-risk areas. His work can range from unrivalled insights into breakaway states to covering the latest tech on the defense market and everything in between!


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