Like so many individuals around the world, I was devastated to awake to the news that Ladan and Laleh Bijani, the 29-year-old conjoined twins who had undergone surgery to be separated, had passed away.
Never before had I been so emotionally involved with people I have never even met. Yet, from the moment I heard about the sisters' story, I remained glued to the news, following the progress of their surgery hour by hour.
It was as if it were my own family in that operating room in Singapore. Each time Raffles hospital sent out a press release on the surgery, my heart almost skipped a beat as I waited anxiously, along with the rest of the world, to see what the outcome of the surgery would be.
I knew that Ladan and Laleh's chances were 50/50. I knew that there were major surgery risks involved given their ages. I knew that even if all went well with surgery, it would a long road to rehabilitation. But still I had hope. The sisters' positive attitudes, determination and strength convinced me that they would awake to see each other face to face.
What is more, I was so ecstatic to hear that not only Iran was behind the sisters, praying for them and supporting them, but that the whole world was right there with them as well. From Singapore to the U.S. and back, everyone was touched by their courage and charm in the face of a life-threatening operation. Their tale brought all of us together.
Sadly, the hope and joy we all had expressed quickly vanished when we heard that both sisters had passed away due to severe blood loss after the completion of the 50-hour surgery. I can still hear the gasps of shock by the media at Raffles Hospital in Singapore after the announcement was made that Ladan had passed away. I just could not believe it.
As I write this, I continue to cry over the loss of my Iranian sisters. Not only do I mourn the loss of these beautiful ladies, but I also mourn for the Iranians living in Iran right now. For so many years, most of what they have seen is tragedy, from the devastation of the Revolution to the Iran-Iraq War to the downward economic plight and most recently, the failed attempts for democracy. Iranians needed this story to have a happy ending.
I am determined, however, to look for the positive side to all of this. Ladan and Laleh will forever be my role models, my heroes. They were two independent, educated, courageous women who kept walking forward, despite many obstacles, towards what they believed to be the right path. In doing so, they made all of us believe in them.
Polls showed that over 90% of those who voted, supported the sisters' decision to go ahead with the surgery. They never once showed any fear or any hesitation. That is the kind of strength we should all try find within ourselves.
Finally, as their names suggest, Ladan and Laleh were two beautiful flowers who wilted too soon. But their legacies remain and will hopefully continue forever. Let us all do our best to make sure that they are never forgotten. We mourn their passing right now, but we will always remember the greatness of these two individuals, Ladan and Laleh.
Laleh and Ladan letter before the operation >>>