Dying To Be Apart

In July 2003, twin sisters Ladan and Laleh Bijani underwent a dangerous and controversial 50-hour operation to separate their conjoined heads. Nearly 30 years of being joined together was long enough. They had now wished to look at each other face to face. Early in their lives, the twins realized that they were very different people. They had different ambitions, hobbies, and tastes, both wanted separate lives and both were determined to make it a reality.

The sister’s quest was to find a surgeon willing to separate them. In this film, we hear from their friends, family, and the man who eventually agreed to operate as they tell their side of the story. It was an operation that had never before performed on adults, and it was carried out in the glare of the world’s press. The twins were risking death for their dream, they knew their lives were at stake but they couldn’t bear to stay the way they were.

Ladan and Laleh Bijani had lived most of their adult lives in the Iranian capital Tehran, they were clever, engaging, and ambitious. They had devised their own ingenious ways of coping with everyday life, the most trivial task to us was a major event for them but they just had to get on with things. In the mid-1990s, the twins were law students at Tehran University, by then they had asserted themselves as individual women each with their own hopes and ambitions. The goal they shared was that of having total physical independence.

At university Laleh had studied to become a journalist whilst Ladan wanted to stick with Law, without separation the lives of these two dissimilar women would become impossible. So in 1996, they travelled to Germany in an effort to convince doctors to separate them, the German doctors, however, declined to operate, stating it was too risky. Undeterred from this decision in November 2002, the twins travelled to Singapore to undergo the controversial operation. After having undergone extensive psychiatric and legal evaluations they underwent surgery on July 6, 2003.

The attempt to separate the twins turned out to be very difficult but was achieved on July 8, 2003, later it was announced that the twins were in critical condition, having lost a large volume of blood due to complications of the operation. They both later died, this is their story.

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