I am a Chechen surgeon whose unwavering belief in the Hippocratic Oath forced me to flee my country in 2000 and to seek asylum in the United States. As a surgeon, I treated any patient in need regardless of their ethnic background or political alliances. I operated on thousands of wounded patients during the first and second Russian-Chechen conflicts. My patients included civilian casualties of war as well as Russian and Chechen soldiers. Because of my adherence to the Hippocratic Oath both Chechen and Russian soldiers accused me of collaboration with the enemy and have sought to kill me.
Since an early age I always knew that I wanted to become a doctor. I pursued this dream and became a successful dental and facial surgeon in my native town of Alkah-Kala, Chechnya. As the only facial surgery specialist in the entire region of Chechnya-Ingusetia my practice was prosperous. Life was peaceful and good during this time.
My life changed abruptly for the worse in 1991 when the newly elected president of Chechnya declared independence from the Soviet Union. Medicine and supplies were cut from the region and salaries were cut. I continued to work as a doctor without pay. In December 1994 Russian forces invaded Chechnya. At the start of the first Chechen war I moved my family to a safer city and I returned to Alkah-Kala to open a hospital to treat the wounded. When my hospital was destroyed by the Russian forces I reopened the hospital in my house which was subsequently destroyed twice by rocket fire. Due to my belief in assisting the sick, I remained in Chechnya during two wars in the most dangerous zones and continued to assist the wounded even after being threatened with death on four occasions by Russian and Chechen soldiers, sustaining a shrapnel wound, being fired upon by snipers and bearing witness to countless scenes of death and destruction.
My actions were never motivated by ethnic or political alliances but rather by my belief in serving all in need, which is embodied in the Hippocratic Oath I took when I became a doctor. This in turn led a few Chechen extremists and the Russian government to target me personally as someone they wanted to eliminate. With the assistance of Physicians for Human Rights and countless friends I was able to escape and enter the United States. I was interviewed by Human Rights First (then known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and my case was placed with pro bono attorneys at the law firm of Latham & Watkins. I am endlessly grateful to Human Rights First and especially to my attorneys for their selfless dedication and unparalleled professionalism. My family owes so much to these amazing individuals. I was granted asylum in July 2000 and was reunited with my wife and children.
Dr. Baiev currently lives in Massachusetts with his family where he works at a local hospital. He is a three time World Sambo Champion (Russian form of martial arts, a close cousin of Judo) and continues advocating for Chechen human rights while learning English and recently publishing his memoirs: The Oath – A Surgeon Under Fire which is available from Walker Books.