The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire

The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679311560
Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date: 10/21/2004
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

"I wrote The Oath for two reasons. I wanted the world to know that war is a hellish thing, which victimizes the innocent. In war there are no winners. Second, and equally important, I wanted to introduce my readers to the Chechen people."

Khassan Baiev was born in Alkhan Kala, a suburb of the Chechen capital Grozny, in 1963. Plagued by illness growing up, Baiev was propelled into athletics, in particular martial arts, to overcome his frailty. By the late seventies he was a black-belt, champion judoist who won Russian competitions and faced a promising career as a coach in the sports-obsessed Soviet Union.

Instead, Baiev, whose sisters were nurses and father was an herbalist, desired to be a doctor. "However, I never talked about it out loud because of my school grades. I was sure people would laugh and think me arrogant if I suggested it," he recalls. In 1980 he convinced the Krasnoyarsk Medical Institute in Siberia to accept him, despite their efforts to exclude non-Russians. Admitted provisionally, Baiev was forced to study and sleep in the waiting room of the local railroad station for the first six months.

Graduating in 1985 and returning to Chechnya in 1988, Baiev became a successful reconstructive surgeon, particularly in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse. But when President Boris Yeltsin issued the order to invade Chechnya a few years later, Baiev gave up his lucrative practice to perform trauma surgery. As the wars raged on, he was persecuted as a criminal by both sides. When he treated Chechen fighters, the Russians accused him of being a traitor. When he treated Russian soldiers, factions of Islamic extremists accused him of the same. Determined to uphold the Hippocratic oath, Baiev operated on all in need, from Russian soldiers to Chechen fighters. But, as he is always quick to point out, it is the civilians caught in between who are the main victims.

During the first war (1994-1996), Baiev treated thousands of civilians. He also operated on and saved a Chechen field commander in a secret underground hideout with the assistance of a Russian doctor the Chechen fighters had taken prisoner. When a Chechen field commander threatened to kill the Russian doctor in retaliation for the murder of his brother, Baiev helped him escape. Thrown into a pit for nine days where the relatives of the field commander tried to force a confession, Baiev barely escaped execution himself.

During the second war (1999-present), Arbi Barayev, a notorious Chechen thug, tried Baiev in a kangaroo court for treating Russian soldiers. Facing execution yet again, Baiev was saved at the last moment by the Russian bombardment of his town.

The Russians, in turn, issued their own order for Baiev's arrest after he saved the life of Shamil Basayev, one of the Kremlin's most wanted field commanders. "With a million dollar bounty on Shamil's head, I could have been a rich man if I had let him bleed to death," Baiev noted.

Realizing that Baiev was a man wanted by both sides, Physicians for Human Rights helped him seek political asylum in the United States. He reluctantly emigrated in 2000, telling The New York Times: "Nobody likes to recall that I was saving elderly civilians by the thousands. The only thing they remember is that I was the surgeon who operated on Basayev."

In the past three years Dr. Baiev has become an outspoken advocate for human rights who has been honored by Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and Amnesty International. He has even returned to competitive sports after a break of 13 years and in 2001 and 2002 he won the world championship in sombo (a Russian form of martial arts). "If it weren't for my athletic training, I don't think I ever would have survived the two Russian-Chechen wars."

Dr. Baiev lives today in Massachusetts with his wife and six children. His youngest child, a girl named Satsita, was born in 2003 in Boston. "She is our American daughter. All my family here and in Chechnya are delighted. And maybe one day she will grow up to be a U.S. senator!"

Read an Excerpt

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?”

Author Biography: Dr. Khassan Baiev is currently living in Boston. Ruth Daniloff has written for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. She has lived and worked in Moscow where she was a correspondent for Peace News and Variety. Nicholas Daniloff worked as a correspondent for United Press International and U.S. News and World Report. He was Director of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University from 1992–1999 and he is the author of The Kremlin and the Cosmos and Two Lives: One Russia.

Table of Contents

Part 1Before the War
Chapter 1Dada and Nana11
Chapter 2Ancestors28
Chapter 3Becoming a Doctor43
Chapter 4Finding a Wife67
Chapter 5The Eve of the First War89
Part 2The First War
Chapter 6The Hospital Opens105
Chapter 7Heaven and Hell117
Chapter 8Young Soldiers130
Chapter 9Raduyev and Sasha142
Chapter 10Saving Alkhan Kala160
Chapter 11Escape from Grozny167
Part 3A Fragile Peace
Chapter 12Rebuilding187
Chapter 13An Eclipse of the Soul201
Chapter 14Mecca211
Chapter 15Rising Crime223
Part 4The Second War
Chapter 16War Again241
Chapter 17Reaching a Climax256
Chapter 18Double Jeopardy277
Chapter 19Descent into Hell289
Part 5Refuge in America
Chapter 20My Escape313
Chapter 21Hard Choices327
Chapter 22Heartbreak337
Chapter 23Hope and Despair343
AppendixWhere Are They Now?363

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Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Its a personal account of a subject the West doesn't know much about. Fantastic. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book stirred my soul and also gave me an education of the Russia-Chechnya conflict and a new perspective on Islam. If only there were more people in the world like Khassan Baiev... He certainly brings to focus that the horrors of war are focused on the innocent civilians, not those who pull the strings from afar.