One night last year at an army barracks in Tehran, a tormented young conscript rousted his sergeant from bed and marched him outside at gunpoint.
The private made his superior writhe in the dirt for an hour, mimicking the exercises he had been forced to do for two months after he was drafted. The private would soon disappear; soldiers later heard he was imprisoned for three years.
Ahmad, a 25-year-old draftee who had just reported to the base, recalled that incident this summer after a series of deadly shootings by conscripts focused national attention on the struggles faced by those completing Iran’s mandatory military service.
“I sympathize with the shooters,” said...