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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Conjoined Twins Die During Surgery

SINGAPORE -- Since they were children, Ladan Bijani and her sister, Laleh, spent their lives trying to go different ways even though they were born joined at the head.

As early as 8 years old, a friend remembered seeing the pair try to walk in opposite directions to break free from each other. To the age of 29, the sisters never stopped trying, and their dream turned to tragedy Tuesday in Singapore.

Their quest had taken them far from their parents at a young age, to Germany and finally to Singapore, where they underwent complex surgery knowing it could kill one or both of them. As the separation was coming to a close, a lot of blood was lost. Ladan died first, then Laleh hours later.

Although they'd planned to live together if the surgery was successful, they dreamed of independence and pursuing their own careers. Ladan wanted to be a lawyer, Laleh a journalist.

The sisters were born into a poor family of 11 children in Firouzabad, southern Iran. They were raised by doctors in the capital, Tehran, under the spotlight of the Iranian media. Despite spending every minute together, the sisters displayed strong, distinct personalities from a young age.

"We have different ideas about our lives," Laleh said last month, explaining why they needed to be separated. "Actually, we are opposites," Ladan interrupted, laughing.

As schoolgirls, they cheated on tests by whispering answers to each other. The government eventually caught on and concluded it would be nearly impossible for the sisters to compete individually in university entrance exams -- so it granted them a joint scholarship to study law at Tehran University in 1994.

Their hopes for separation were high in 1996, when Iranian doctors helped them travel to Germany for tests ahead of possible separation surgery. But they returned to Tehran heartbroken after German doctors told them the operation was too dangerous because the sisters shared a common vein that drained blood from their brains.

On Monday, surgeons in Singapore believed they had overcome that problem after creating a new vein for Ladan.

"Our best days began after our arrival in Singapore in November. We are writing our memoirs every day and are impatiently waiting for the big day to come," Ladan wrote last month.

The twins had told friends that even if the surgery were successful, they never could really walk away from each other. The pair had hoped to move back to Iran and live in an apartment together, said Bahar Niko, a confidant to the sisters in Singapore.

When asked last year if one of them was ready to die to give the other independence, Laleh said, "We have waited [so long] because we didn't want to choose such a difficult option."