Even though the campaign he embarked on to prevent his attacker from being executed did not work out in his favour, Bangladeshi-born Rais Bhuiyan said his message of compassion, tolerance and forgiveness has reached the hearts of many people across the globe. This makes his lengthy battle with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice a cause worth fighting for.
Angry Texan Mark Stroman, 31 years old at the time, violently targeted people he thought were Arab ten days after the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. His sister died in the attack which led him to develop a hatred for Muslims. Two Asian men died at the hands of Stroman and Bhuiyan survived after being shot in the face. In 2002, Stroman was sentenced to death row.
Bhuiyan fought tooth and nail to prevent the execution from going ahead on 20 July. He felt that taking a life was not eradicating the root cause of the problem – ignorance which causes hate crimes. “We lost a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate. Mark Stroman’s execution did not eradicate hate crimes from this world,” said Bhuiyan. “I feel very sad because after July 20, I feel like a piece of my heart is gone from that day.”
In Texas, victims are supposed to be granted a mediation process with their attacker – something Bhuiyan applied for but was never granted. This led him to file a lawsuit against Texas governer, Rick Perry. However, he was disappointed to learn that the lawsuit he was encouraged to pursue was simply just symbolic and nothing more.
“Governor Rick Perry said April 10 to 16 2011 would be Victims Rights Week and he encouraged all the fellow Texans to come forward and help them with respect and compassion,” explained Bhuiyan. “At the same time I was informed by the attorney-general of Texas that this ‘victims rights’ is a symbolic thing and it’s not an actual right. I was surprised how a right can be symbolic.”
Bhuiyan said this will not put a damper on his efforts to take the matter further to avoid future cases of victims being denied mediation processes with their offenders. From 18 July to the day that Stroman was executed, Bhuiyan was still fighting for the mediation. “Just one week before the execution I had no other option except go to the court and try to exercise my right as a victim.”
However, there was a fleeting moment of interaction between Stroman and Bhuiyan via telephone shortly before the execution. “It happened so quickly and it was for a very, very short time. I just passed my message that if he was executed, he needs to be in mental peace because he isn’t going to come back to this world anymore. I just wanted to comfort him and tell him I don’t hate him and I was never angry at him,” he related.
“He was very thankful and complimented me for running this campaign and trying to save his life, saying I have all the right to hate him but rather I was doing the opposite.” Bhuiyan said he is now in contact with Stroman’s family. “Two days after his execution I met his daughter and we had a good conversation. I told her and her family that I am available if there is anything I can do from my side to comfort them and to help them in the future. We should not live in the past based on our negative experience.”
Bhuiyan said he is glad to have touched the hearts of people in and around the United States with his message of tolerance and forgiveness. “I received a tremendous amount of support, emails and even postal letters from all over the world and it feels great that at least this message is being spread. People are seeing the same kind of fear, ignorance, killing and hate crimes all over the world and they need to see something different, they need to see something new so that they can move forward and live in a better world.”
This article originally apeared here.