RIYADH (Reuters) - The family of a Saudi woman student who died of heart problems has said her university prevented medics from getting to her in time because of rules barring men from the women-only part of the campus, Saudi media reported.
The King Saud University in Riyadh denied the accusation and said Amena Bawazir, who had a history of heart disease, received quick medical attention after suffering a stroke last Sunday, causing her heart and lungs to stop functioning.
The case has revived memories of a 2002 incident in which 15 schoolgirls in Jeddah died in a fire after the Saudi morality police sent them back into the building because they were not veiled.
Al-Arabiya television’s news website quoted Amena’s sister, Fahda Bawazir, as saying that medics arrived at a campus gate shortly after her sister fell ill at around 11 a.m.
“But the medics were not allowed to enter the campus until 1 p.m.,” she said, in a report published late on Thursday.
She said university authorities kept them outside until a gate was secured in a way “that did not allow the (male) medics and females in the building to mix.”
A university spokesman denied there was any delay, saying campus medics attended the girl and when they failed to revive her they called in medics from a local hospital, according to the sabq.org news website.
It quoted the spokesman, Ahmed al-Tamimi, as saying those medics arrived at the scene at 12:45 p.m., 10 minutes after they were called. Failing to revive her on the spot, they took Amena to the university hospital where she was pronounced dead at 13:39 p.m.
“As the university issues this correction, it asserts its responsibility towards all male and female students and its serious efforts to preserve their lives and safety,” Tamimi said.
Saudi Arabia adheres to the Wahhabi brand of Islam, which forbids mixing between men and women and restricts women’s movements, often requiring the permission of a male guardian.
Reporting by Angus McDowall and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy