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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK
Iran mourns conjoined twins
Iranian children pay tribute to the sisters
The sisters had been famous throughout Iran since their childhood
The people of Iran have been expressing their sorrow over the deaths of Ladan and Laleh Bijani, adult conjoined twins who died following a marathon operation to separate them.

One Iranian political leader described it as a calamity and a sad day for the entire nation.

The BBC's Francis Harrison in Tehran says that through local media the country had watched the girls grow up and people were in tears when the news was announced.

The 29-year-old sisters, who were joined at the head, died in hospital in Singapore within 90 minutes of each other, after losing a large amount of blood in the final stages of the operation.

They were very hopeful about their future, they were talking about where they would each like to go
Zakhia Shiraskan, close friend

The sisters had been warned of the dangers but were prepared to risk everything for the chance of independent lives.

One of the twins' closest friends Zakhia Shiraskan told the BBC that they had been very optimistic about their prospects:

"I saw them before the operation... and they were making jokes and laughing, and they were very hopeful about their future, they were talking about where they would each like to go," she said.

"One of them was making jokes with the other sister saying... 'I'm really tired of you, you've been sticking to me, why can I not get rid of you.'"

Newsflash

Iranian state media had been providing minute-by-minute updates on how the operation was proceeding to a country eager for news.


Normal television and radio programmes were interrupted to announce the deaths.

Speaking of what the twins' deaths meant to the people of Iran, Vice-President Mohammad-Ali Abtahi told AFP:

"These last 29 years, from the announcement of their birth to the different moments in their painful lives, have now been engraved in the collective memory of the country," he said.

"Not only the family of Laleh and Ladan, but all the Iranian people have been closely following this operation. Their deaths make us all distraught," he added.

Bitterness

The girl's adoptive father, who took them in just one year after they were born into a poor family, has also been speaking of his personal loss.

If God wants us to live the rest of our lives as two separate independent individuals, we will
Ladan Bijani

"We shared a house for 27 years and I feel a great emptiness," said Alireza Safaian, who is a doctor, told Reuters.

Dr Safaian wept as he also spoke of his anger that the risky surgery had been allowed to proceed.

"When they took them to Singapore, I knew they would bring back their bodies. They took them there and killed them," he said.

German doctors had turned away the Bijanis in 1996, deeming the operation to be too risky.

Zest for life

However, the sisters who had not been in contact with Dr Safaian for 18 months, said that they knew the risks and were willing to accept the possibility they might die.

Our sympathy goes out to all the family
Dr Loo Choon Yong, Chair of Raffles Hospital

As one of them put it, her greatest wish was to be able to look into her sister's eyes for the first time in her life.

Our correspondent in Tehran says there has been little suggestion there that the twins made the wrong decision, just enormous respect for their achievements and sympathy for their desire to go their separate ways.

Both women had obtained law degrees. Ladan - the more outspoken of the two, wanted to be a lawyer, while Laleh, had ambitions of becoming a journalist.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Bottomley
"They have been some concerns about whether the high-risk operation should have taken place at all"



SEE ALSO:
Iranian twins die in surgery
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Surgeons' sorrow at death of twins
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Conjoined twins separated in Dhaka
26 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Message from Bijani twins
06 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Conjoined twins
06 Jul 03  |  Medical notes
Mourning the loss of the twins
08 Jul 03  |  Middle East


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