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El Juramento/the Oath

PDF 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Over the next six years, Baiev treated thousands of people under the most brutal conditions, using outdated tools and dwindling medical supplies, and with a constant threat of missiles overhead.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?”

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