Tehran, July 8 (Reuters): Iran plunged into shock and grief today after conjoined Iranian twins died in high-risk surgery aimed at giving the sisters a chance to lead separate lives.
The suffering and bravery of the twins has captivated Iran, a land with a fair share of its own woes. Iranian television cut into scheduled programmes to announce the deaths. President Mohammed Khatami had pledged yesterday to pay the cost of the operation, estimated at $300,000. “It is a sad day for Iran,” vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi said. “The Iranian nation and a lot of people around the world were looking to the hospital hoping these two would be rescued.”
“It is a sad calamity for all those following their case,” he said. “I express my condolences to their family and the Iranian nation and thank the medical team who were unsuccessful despite their best efforts.” Dozens of Iranian twins held a vigil overnight to pray for 29-year-old Laleh and Ladan Bijani whose determination to lead separate lives made them risk the marathon surgery in Singapore.
“I am so sad,” said government spokesperson Abdollah Ramazanzadeh on hearing the news. His voice shaking, he said he was too upset to say anymore. Ladan, the more outspoken of the twins, died first from blood loss at a critical stage of the operation as a team of 28 specialists and 100 assistants working for two days pried apart their tightly packed brain tissue and blood vessels.
Laleh died soon after.
“I feel so bad about their deaths because I know what it is like to lose a child,” said Boloureh Asefi. “I saw them a while ago in the street waiting for a taxi. It shows they didn’t have any chance here in Iran,” she said. Housewife Maryam Forouhar said: “It’s like I have lost a close relative.”
President Mohammad Khatami pledged on Monday to pay the costs of the operation, estimated at around $300,000.
The father of twins, Dadollah Bijani, a poor farmer from southern Iran, recounted how the sisters were kept in a local hospital for years under the care of U.S. doctors, but then went missing during the confusion of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
He eventually tracked them down to Karaj, near the capital Tehran, where they had been adopted by a doctor, Alireza Safaian.
Despite a court ruling awarding father-of-11 Bijani custody, the twins decided to stay with Safaian.
”I remember Ladan told us; 'we cannot live with you in a village and work in a farm',” the Iran newspaper quoted Bijani as saying before the news of the deaths.“I thank Safaian for all of his efforts.”
Safaian said the twins had been abandoned when he adopted them, with even hospital staff unwilling to look after the sisters.
”When doctors in Singapore said there was a possibility one of them would die, I felt dizzy, because it is very difficult for a father to see the death of his child,” the Etemad newspaper on Tuesday quoted Safaian as saying.“I see them everywhere in my house, I feel their warmth and kindness, I miss them.”