'My country is a medical disaster area, and I cannot rest until I return. But I know I can't go home again - at least not yet - not while Russian troops and a few Chechen extremists are pursuing me. The Kremlin called me a terrorist doctor because I treated Chechen freedom fighters. The extremists called me a traitor because I treated wounded Russian soldiers. In truth, it was the civilians I treated most and they still need my help.' As the struggle for independence in his native Chechnya moved into its bloodiest phase, Dr Khassan Baiev was enjoying a life of affluence as a plastic surgeon in Moscow but he knew he had to go home. Horrified by the violence and destruction, Dr Baiev set to treat the appalling casualties with out-of-date equipment, often donating his own blood for operations. During one particularly gruesome period, he performed sixty-seven operations in forty-eight hours until his hands were too heavily blistered to continue. It is remarkable how anyone could perform intricate surgery under such conditions, but Baiev was driven by his allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath: a vow to serve anyone who needed help. The Oath placed him outside politics, but in the eyes of t
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Told with immediacy and heart, The Oath is the story of a brave physician's dedication to saving lives in the Russia-Chechnya conflict.
In 1991, when the political conflict between Chechen insurgents and the Russian army began, Khassan Baiev was a wealthy plastic surgeon. But when Russia began to bomb his country, Baiev gave up safety and security and opened a small hospital in his hometown of Alkhan Kala. At times, the one-storey cement building was staffed by just six nurses and a handful of volunteers. Baiev was the sole physician.
Over the next six years, Baiev treated thousands of people under the most brutal conditions, using outdated tools and dwindling medical supplies, and with a constant threat of missiles overhead. A witness to the unspeakable horrors of war, Baiev treated anyone, Chechen or Russian, soldier or civilian. He became a marked man, hated by both sides in one of the world?s ugliest and least understood conflicts. After he treated a widely feared Chechen rebel leader, his home was looted and burned. A Chechen warlord stood him up against a wall and threatened to execute him for saving Russian soldiers.
Under threat from both sides, Baiev finally fled Chechnya early in 2000. Still tortured by the memories of his past, he has taken refuge in the USA. Throughout his whole ordeal, Khassan has maintained his commitment to medicine and medical ethics. When asked why he didn?t flee his country like so many others had done, he said, ?I could have left before the war. But where would I have gone? Where was I more needed than Chechnya??
“A real-life Hawkeye Pierce . . . [Khassan Baiev] has humanized the Chechens, whom others have portrayed as terrorists. Russian president Vladimir Putin has tried to equate Russia's fight against the Chechens with the U.S. battle against al-Qaida. Those who read this stirring memoir will be hard-pressed to see the situation so simply.” -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[ The Oath] gives American readers an important perspective to consider as our government's quest for support in the war on terror constrains it from condemning atrocities committed by allies . . . As in The Pianist, one marvels at how a man can continually escape seemingly certain death and persevere under the most perverse conditions . .. Humanity behind the headlines -- an eye-opener.” -- Booklist, starred review
“A compelling portrait of the Chechen people and the effects of war on innocent victims, demonstrating the depths to which human beings can sink and the heights to which they can rise.” -- Kirkus Reviews
" The Oath is a heart wrenching, superbly written and gripping account of one of the most brutal, and forgotten, wars of the past decade. Dr Khassan Baiev is a living hero whose story is simultaneously inspiring, horrifying and impossible to put down. This is a profoundly insightful and compelling book that deserves to be widely read." -- Dr Eric Hoskins and Dr Samantha Nutt, President and Executive Director, War Child Canada
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