A story of Revenge... Change... and Forgiveness...
He was a “Lone Wolf” – years before the term was appropriated to describe self-inspired individuals on a killing rampages who use religion as vindication of their actions.
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Mark Stroman began “hunting Arabs,” – as he described it – his nights occupied by prowling the highways and running victims off the road.
To avenge the deaths of the twin towers, he graduated to shooting people whom he believed were Muslims from the Middle East – they were actually immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and a Hindu from India. He killed two and partially blinded a young man from Bangladesh.
Thankfully, he was arrested before he could commit his planned massacre of dozens of Muslim worshipers at a local Dallas Mosque. Stroman was going to make a statement “like Muhamad Atta (the hijacker of the first 9/11 plane) did” trying to avenge the senseless killing of innocent Americans by killing innocent Muslim worshipers. To his friends, he had said that he planned to die in the carnage and mayhem. Luckily police got to him first.
The Press at the time described Stroman as an “American terrorist.” Today we might as well call him an “American Lone Wolf.”
From 2004 and for the next 7 years, filmmaker Ilan Ziv met and befriended Mark Stroman on Texas’ infamous Death Row, where he had been since his capital murder conviction in 2002. At trial Stroman was described by the prosecutor as a “monster, a cancer to society”, yet Ilan was perplexed to meet a complex man full of contradictions, who shared the same troubled soul as the most recent “lone wolves” who used Jihad as a cover for their personal failings and justification for their crimes. By then, Stroman had become a man in search of meaning and redemption. So Ziv set out to document what he called “the enigma of Mark Stroman.”
The result is a fascinating portrait of a serial killer, and a unique insight into the profound changes he went through.
Ziv chronicled his relationship on film, but also set up a blog for Stroman. Unbeknownst to both the filmmaker and Stroman, among the growing readership was Rais Bhuiyan, Mark’s only surviving victim.
An Islamic pilgrimage seeded in Rais a desire to forgive Mark and to spare his life. He had a "strange" idea: if he was ever to be whole, he must reenter Stroman's life. He longed to confront Stroman and speak to him face to face about the attack that changed their lives.
Mark asked for forgiveness from his victims and Bhuiyan publicly forgave him, in the name of his religion and its notion of mercy. Then two months before Mark’s execution, Rais waged a legal and public relations campaign against the State of Texas and Governor Rick Perry, to have his attacker spared from the death penalty.
An Eye for an Eye is the record of this riveting human drama of revenge, change and forgiveness, and of the surprising friendship that developed between the Israeli born filmmaker and Mark Stroman, who by his own admission, had never travelled beyond Dallas let alone Texas.
It is a tale that stands as a poignant message in times when fear, hate and revenge are part of the daily rhetoric.
Three days before his execution, Mark Stroman declared in an interview; “If a terror attack happens again, stay united and do not stereotype the Muslims… Don’t be a dumbass… do not be a Mark Stroman.” Those words are more relevant today than when they were recorded just 5 years ago.
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
A FILM BY ILAN ZIV