The stories of these remarkable men and women reveal the challenges and struggles facing those who speak truth to power. It would be hard not to be inspired by their resilience in trying to create a better world.
Khassan Baiev, Chechnya
Operating on friends and enemies while under fire
‘We have no choice but to save the nation,’ says surgeon Khassan Baiev of his native Chechnya. ‘Medicine, not politics, is my passion.’ Two wars in the 1990s turned parts of the country into a ‘zone of ecological disaster’. The symbol of a coiled snake representing renewal and healing became his professional compass. ‘You have golden hands’ a clairvoyant once told him, and no doubt many of his patients would echo these words.
Accused by both parties of operating on the enemy, he stayed true to the Hippocratic Oath, to the point of having to flee the country. Suffering shell-shock and trauma, he persisted, one time even saving the life of a family by operating on their cow.
Resisting a rebel commander, he said: ‘In this hospital I give the orders! Whether you like it or not, you will obey!’
Soe Myint, Burma
Highlighting the struggle of the people
‘I am going away. If we don’t die, we will meet again,’ said a note Soe Myint left his parents when he left for the Burmese jungle. Due to circumstances beyond his control he could not complete his studies to become a military attaché. In 1988, oppression by Burma’s military junta led to bloodbaths, during which thousands died.
Protests, however, did not stop. For Soe Myint, this included the desperate act of hijacking a plane to highlight the struggle of the Burmese people, later founding Mizzima, a multimedia news agency. ‘I had changed from a student to an explosives trainer, and from a hijacker to a non-violent activist and then a journalist!’
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed, but Burma’s problems are far from over. ‘The struggle for freedom and democracy is never a lost struggle,’ Soe believes. ‘We will win.’