Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses


Helmut Szimkus
July 11, 1994
Newspaper article

Mr. Szimkus, how did you find out about your upcoming release?

Szimkus: The day the German ambassador, Mr. Schenk, came to the prison and told me that my time there would be over soon.

-Did he give you any specifics?

Szimkus: He told me that I would be able to see the final game of the World Cup soccer games, in Germany. Three days later, at 10 p.m. on 1 July, I was released.

-What were you thinking about when you were flying to Frankfurt?

Szimkus: nothing.

-You mean you had no feelings after five and a half years of imprisonment?

Szimkus: I knew that a new phase in my life would begin. That's all that matters. Nothing else. If I would think about the past and what was done to me, I would break down and would end up in psychological treatment.

-How did you leave the frightening Evin prison?

Szimkus: I collected my stuff and said goodbye to the director.

-You were comfortable there, then?

Szimkus: Well, during those last days. The Embassy has helped me a lot, I even could go to the prison pool to swim.

-That sounds like a recreation facility?

Szimkus: Sometimes it was o.k., but there were other times as well.

-What do you mean?

Szimkus: It was hell. Especially during the time of my detention, before I was sentenced to prison. It was so frightening that I can hardly describe it.

-They accused you of spying for Iraq. Was there any document proving their claim?

Szimkus: No, I was set up. They had no evidence against me. I found this out quickly.

-Please explain.

Szimkus: During the interrogations. They had nothing. There were only beatings, beatings, and beatings.

-Did they tie your hands and feet?

Szimkus: No, they would make me sit in a chair, blindfold me, and start to beat me. In this situation, you never know when you will receive the next blow. That's the worst part. The person in charge of beating me hit me so hard in the face that I felt my head blow up like a balloon.

-In their questionings, what did they accuse you of?

-Szimkus: Of nothing, that was the craziest thing. They only asked me what I was doing in their country. When I told them that I was only assembling industrial machinery, they would hit me again. That is how I lost my teeth.

-How long did these questionings last?

Szimkus: They worked on me for four weeks and beat me every single day.

-Who was the person torturing you?

Szimkus: I saw him only once. He was a small man, almost skinny. I've heard he had an ulcer. Eventually he stopped beating me up.

-Then your trial started after this?

Szimkus: Do you know the Iranian courts? Now the torture started for real, man.

-In the Evin prison?

Szimkus: The secret service has a part of the complex which is strictly separated from the rest of the prison. That's the section 209. The first thing you see when you go in there are the big blood stains on the floor. They tortured a 70 year old man in front of me, so much that he was drenched in blood. When I entered there, there was a mullah who ordered that I should be tortured.

-Was this mullah watching these scenes?

Szimkus: Yes. They tied me onto something like a tennis table. A guy started to lash the soles of my feet with a hard copper cable. With the first blow, the skin on my soles broke. The pain was such that I felt as if hundred thousand volts of electricity has entered my body. They continued lashing me like crazy.

-Did they say anything during the torture?

Szimkus: Yes, there was one of them who kept on saying "we can hang you, bury you alive, and cut you to pieces, because you are an enemy of the Islamic Revolution".

-How long could you bear the torture?

Szimkus: There is no one who could bear what happened in this room. They made me lie on my stomach and one them said that we will first cut your kidneys, then shoot you in the throat and then in the shoulder so that you die real slow as a result of the bleeding. At this stage, I signed several papers. I didn't care anymore. I just wanted them to stop torturing me.

- What effects does torture have on the soul?

Szimkus: It's an attack on the innermost, the last, nothing comes after this.

-How were the conditions of the Iranian prisoners?

Szimkus: The torture of the Iranian prisoners was even worse than mine. Especially for people who had been accused of spying for Iraq. That's a real bad chapter.

-Would you like to explain more?

Szimkus: The German ambassador said it would be best if I wouldn't go too much into this at home.

-Would you like to talk about other issues?

Szimkus: No, let's talk about these butcheries. They are a band of murderers, of perverts. I could hear the screams of people who couldn't bear the pain anymore and cried out for God. This only led to even more unrestrained torture.

-Was there any red line?

Szimkus: I've heard men and women screaming for hours. Not shouting, not whimpering. These were not human noises anymore. It was out of this world. And then, there were the things they did with the children...

-What do you mean by the "things they did with the children"?

Szimkus: There were children in these torture places. These bastards violated a nine year old girl in front of her parents. The father was so shaken and defeated that he couldn't hold his hand still enough to sign the confession papers.

-Are you sure they torture children to make their parents confess?

Szimkus: I was witness to these events. The Iranian government must be tried before the international court. The torture of this young girl was not an isolated example.

-Do you know comparable cases? There are no other eye-witness accounts from the torture section.

Szimkus: One time, they were torturing a young boy. You can not imagine the screams of an innocent child under torture. The parents were right in the next prison cell and couldn't bear what they had to listen to.

-What was the reaction of the Iranian judiciary to these excesses of torture?

Szimkus: One time I told my judge that I had been tortured. He laughed and replied that I had obviously survived the tortures quite well.

-Did they sentence you to death?

Szimkus: Yes, the death sentence was issued on 15 March 1992.

-Did you still have hope?

Szimkus: Yes, I was pretty sure I would not be hanged.


Szimkus: Because I knew the Iranian government wanted to cut a deal. Already before the trial they told me: "When those two Lebanese in Germany are free, you will be released as well".

-Do you mean the "Hamadi" brothers?

Szimkus: Yes, they mentioned their names.

-What were the overall conditions of imprisonment?

Szimkus: In a room the size of 35 square meters, they had incarcerated 18 people. That makes it a little bit tight.

-Your children wanted to visit you in prison and you did not accept, why?

Szimkus: I did not want that, such a visit would have touched me too much. I had created a sort of emotional wall around me, and nothing should penetrate that wall. I knew I would only be able to survive in Evin only if I could keep all emotions inside and make myself invulnerable.

Interview by Andreas Gutzeit / Josef Hufelschulte