"We should pray very hard for them" said Dr Kumar, announcing the separation of the Laden and Laleh Bijani. An hour later, at 2.30pm on Tuesday, after 50 hours of continuous surgery, Laden bled to death. Laden wanted to be a lawyer. A little while later, her sister Laleh bled to death as well. She was the quieter twin. She wanted to be a journalist. She loved animals.
Laleh didn't particularly want to study law. She studied it for six and a half years, simply because Laden wanted to. Their brains may have been fused together, but as Laleh said: "We are individual persons. We have different ideas about our lives. We are opposites."
Bored of sharing the same skull - the girls went to Singapore to get cut: "When we first opened our eyes to see the light we wanted to be separated," said Ladan. "We are now almost 30 years old. That is enough."
Ladan revealed that the twins planned to spend the hours before the operation reading the Quran and performing ritual Muslim ablutions. "We feel closer to God that way," she said. They put their fate in God's hands: "If God wants us to live the rest of our lives as two separate, independent individuals, we will,'' said Ladan. "Please, everyone, pray for us," said Laleh.
They did their ablutions, everyone prayed, and after 50 hours of surgery Laleh and Laden died. It was called Operation Hope.
In Singapore, the bodies of the twins were prepared for burial. A dozen women in black headscarves washed the corpses, and wrapped them with thin strips of white cotton. Afterwards, they draped a brown-and-gold funeral shroud over Laleh's body, and a black-and-white one over Ladan's. Mourners chanted "Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar" as the Bijani sisters were driven away to the airport.
"God is great, God is great."
Yet quite how the greatness of God is manifested by two nice Iranian girls being shat on from a great height is an unplummable mystery. God must be feeling really fucking smug right now: he created a fabulous two-bodied freak, he drove a pair of young girls to despair, let them dream of living separate lives, watched them pray in their hospital gowns, watched them kiss each other goodbye, watched their hearts fail in their chests, and then sat back and wallowed in the praise. God is great!
The traditional apologetic for an event as thoroughly shitty as the death of Laden and Laleh is that the world has been somehow improved by all the crap. That goodness has seeped out from the badness and spread, like golden pus from a nasty chin-spot. And certainly one could look at the extraordinary efforts of the surgeons, the cheerfulness and determination of the twins, the way the world has been united in hope, sorrow and prayer - and one could say yes: much good has come of this. But at what expense? And who's picking up the tab?
If God set out to educate or improve the world by creating and killing these twins, then this means that we who are being improved and educated are somehow responsible for their deaths. They died on our account. They were an object lesson. This reduces the twins to the level of teaching tools, walking parables, and reduces us to the level of murderers. Laleh and Laden died because of our needs: in effect, we killed them by our badness.
Frankly, God owes everyone an apology. He not only failed, rudely, to consult the world before deciding to educate us in this way, he also (more importantly) failed to ask the twins permission before using them up like bits of old chalk on a blackboard. No one agreed to this. The twins wanted careers and boyfriends. They didn't want colour-coordinated funeral shrouds.
This is what we mustn't forget: the fact that these twins were real people with real fears and hopes and favourite colours and favourite foods. They went to sleep all excited at the thought of their new life. But if Laleh and Laden died to improve the world, then these dreams mean nothing. Their life was a pantomime. The twins were dancing about on the world stage like the puppet goats in The Sound of Music. And God is up there tweaking the strings and snickering like a deeper-voiced and slightly more beardy Julie Andrews.
And if God does exist, then what exactly is he going to say to Laleh and Laden when they walk through the gates of heaven? "Hi girls, awfully sorry about putting you through all that. I kind of had my own agenda. But listen - good news! - I'm throwing a big thank you party. We're going to have buns and lemonade, and we might even have karaoke later! You forgive me, don't you?"
And anyway - just what the hell was the moral of all this? You're born into a poor family, your head is fused to your sister, you're a freak, a monster, you dream of living a normal life, you imagine having a husband, children, you're devoutly religious, you pray and pray and pray and pray. At long last, after 50 hours of surgery, you get separated - and bam! - you bleed to death. Allah Akbar!