Thousands of Saudi Arabians voiced their frustration online after learning that male paramedics were denied entrance to a women’s college dorm as a female student died of a heart attack.
The deceased woman is Amna Bawazeer, a former graduate student at King Saudi University’s College of Social Studies. Bawazeer suffered a heart attack last week in her dorm room. Friends immediately called an ambulance to the dorm.
When the ambulance arrived, paramedics were not allowed to enter the college for over two hours. Why? Bawazeer was not covered in her traditional Muslim garb. School officials worried public anger would ensure if paramedics were allowed to see Bawazeer in an uncovered state.
Bawazeer died as she was left unattended in her room.
Students who witnessed her death cried and protested loudly in the following hours.
“Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” one of the student witnesses said. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”
The university has publicly denied reports that medics were barred from helping Bawazeer. The testimony of an entire group of witnesses who say otherwise is hard to deny though.
Professor Aziza Youssef is one of many professors at King Saudi University calling for an investigation.
"We need management who can make quick decisions without thinking of what the family will say or what culture will say," Youssef said.
As an Associated Press article on Haaretz points out, Saudi Arabia implements a strict interpretation of Islam’s gender guidelines. Sexes are separated at almost all Saudi Universities. Women often have different seating and entrance areas in family restaurants. Many of the restaurants forbid single male men from entering. Saudi Arabia’s top cleric is opposed to gender mixing and called integration a threat to society and female chastity.