Moral Low Ground


Saudi Arabia: Female Student Amna Bawazeer Dies After Male Paramedics Denied Access

Segregation of the sexes is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Matthias Catón)

Segregation of the sexes is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Matthias Catón)

A female student in Saudi Arabia died of a heart attack after staff at her university allegedly refused to allow male paramedics to enter a women’s-only campus to save her.

Al Arabiya reports Amna Bawazeer, a student at King Saud Univeristy in the capital city of Riyadh, died after suffering a heart attack around 11 am on Wednesday. University administrators reportedly barred male ambulance staff from saving Bawazeer’s life due to the Islamic kingdom’s strict rules against men and women mixing. Male paramedics, indeed any men in Saudi Arabia, are prohibited from being with women and girls who aren’t covered from head to toe. Local media reports claimed the administrators made the ambulance wait between one and two hours before being allowed to enter the campus, by which time Bawazeer was dead.

However, university rector Badran al-Omar told the Associated Press that the media reports were false and that he did not hesitate to allow the paramedics access to Bawazeer.

“They called the ambulance at 12:35 pm and ambulance staff was there by 12:45 pm and entered immediately,” claimed al-Omar. “There was no barring them at all. They entered from a side door.”

Gulf News reports students who witnessed the incident suffered from “psychological shock,” with some young women crying hysterically before collapsing from grief and anger. Outraged students protested loudly against officials’ refusal to help the dying girl, but to no avail.

“Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rules, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” a group of the students wrote in the Saudi daily Okaz. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, under which the complete segregation of the sexes and subjugation of women is the law of the land. Women cannot drive or vote, nor can they be treated in hospitals or travel abroad without permission from male relatives. Even rape victims are sometimes severely punished– one woman who was abducted and gang raped was sentenced to 90 whip lashes for being in a vehicle with an unrelated man.

In 2002, 15 Saudi schoolgirls needlessly died when the dreaded morality police, the mutawas, locked them inside their burning Mecca school and stopped firefighters from saving them because they were not wearing headscarves and black robes.

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