The family of a student in Saudi Arabia says university authorities delayed emergency responders from treating their daughter who later died, because they didn’t want men in the women-only section of campus.
King Saud University officials denied the accusation, saying that Amna Bawazeer was treated immediately by medical personnel.
Media reports about the woman’s condition were conflicting. The Associated Press reported that Bawazeer suffered a heart attack, while Reuters reported that she suffered a stroke, “causing her heart and lungs to stop functioning.”
The Associated Press reported, “The Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by the paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men from being onsite. According to the paper, the incident took place on Wednesday and the university staff took an hour before allowing the paramedics in.”
King Saud University rector Badran Al-Omar denied the allegations, telling the AP that there was no delay in allowing paramedics access to the campus and that the university did all it could to save the life of Bawazeer who had a heart condition.
A university employee who witnessed the event told the AP that paramedics were not called immediately.
The unnamed staffer said the emergency responders were not given immediate permission to enter campus “and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked,” the AP reported.
Refuting that account, university rector Al-Omar provided a different timeline to the AP saying that campus health officials were called within minutes of Bawazeer collapsing and that paramedics were called about 25 minutes later.
“They called the ambulance at 12:35 p.m. and ambulance staff was there by 12:45 p.m. and entered immediately. There was no barring them at all. They entered from a side door,” he said.
The AP reported that thousands of Saudis have taken to social media to vent their anger over the report which was reminiscent of the 2002 fire at a girl’s school in Mecca during which religious police would not allow the young girls to escape because they were not wearing traditional Islamic headscarves. Other reports said police had sent some of the girls whose heads were uncovered back inside the building. Fifteen students were burned to death. Saudi morality police denied that they had blocked the girls’ exit.
The King Saud University faculty and Saudis writing on social media are now calling for an investigation and the setting of emergency protocols.
“We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say,” said Professor Aziza Youssef.