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Tears for brave Bijani twins

Ladan, left, and Laleh Bijani said they were well aware of the dangers.

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start quoteThe cheerfulness they had as they went into the operation had won them a great many friendsend quote
-- Michael Dwyer, Singapore-based journalist

(CNN) -- The deaths of Ladan and Laleh Bijani have saddened millions around the world who had keenly followed the efforts of the conjoined twins to live separate lives.

The bravery and determination shown by the 29-year-old Iranians in the face of dangers inherent to the unprecedented surgery -- dangers of which they were fully aware -- struck a chord around the world.

In Singapore, where the surgery was performed, their story has dominated the headlines and made the Bijanis virtually honorary citizens.

Nurses and other staff at Raffles Hospital said they had come to regard the twins as family after spending almost seven months at the hospital. They broke down in tears along with friends and reporters when they heard the announcements that first one and then both of the twins had died.

Journalist Michael Dwyer in Singapore said that after initial optimism and some elation earlier in the day that the surgery had gone well, it had been a very emotional afternoon at the hospital.

"There were members of the Iranian community in the hospital lobby who broke into tears at the news," he said.

"The twins had made a big impression on people in Singapore and around the world," Dwyer added. "The cheerfulness they had as they went into the operation had won them a great many friends."

In Iran, where the twins' progress had also been followed avidly, Vice-President Mohammad Ali said "it's a sad day for Iran."

"The Iranian nation and a lot of people around the word were looking to the hospital hoping these two would be rescued," he told Reuters.

Iran's state news agency IRNA offered its condolences "to all Iranians across the globe on loss of the two kind sisters on Tuesday in Singapore."

"May God bless their souls and reward them with peace in their eternal life," the agency said.

Journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr in Tehran told CNN that millions of Iranians were following the twins' story step-by-step.

"They were praying for them and they admired their courage, their willingness to take such big risks," he said.

As news of the twins' deaths spread, thousands of tributes from around the world poured in to (Your say)

The deaths will also come as bitter blow to the international medical team that carried out the marathon operation, despite assertions that at best the procedure had a 50 percent chance of success.

Religion was a source of comfort to the twins as they prepared for the operation with prayers and readings from the Koran.

Speaking ahead of the surgery, Ladan said she and her sister were fully informed of the risks and had put their faith in God.

"If God wants us to live the rest of our lives as two separate, independent individuals, we will," she said.

Ladan and Laleh were born in Firouzabad in southern Iran in 1974.

Their parents, who are both in their 80s, were considered too frail to travel to Singapore to be with their daughters as they went into surgery.

In 1996, the twins had been turned down by a team of German doctors who said the operation was too dangerous.

Although the twins had separate brains, they shared a key vein that drained blood from both brains.

Undeterred, Ladan and Laleh continued their quest -- even if it meant that one or both of them might die in the process.

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