To veil or to die, that’s the question


Yesterday a student at the women only campus of a Riyad university collapsed and died of a heart attack. Allegedly the male paramedics had to wait for an hour before they were admitted due to ”modesty concerns”

The student, now identified as Amna Bawazir was known to suffer from heart problems.

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

However, the university’s rector, Badran al-Omar, denied the report, saying there was no hesitation in letting the paramedics in. He said the university did all it could to save the life of Amna.

Professors at King Saud University are demanding an investigation. “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.
One staff member, who witnessed the situation, said paramedics were not called immediately. She said they were also not given immediate permission to enter the campus and that it appeared that the female dean of the university and the female dean of the college of social studies panicked. The staff member spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from university management.

Al-Omar said the staff called campus health officials within minutes of Amna Bawazeer collapsing and that about 25 minutes later they called paramedics.

The students insisted that the officials who refused to allow the medical team into the college on the pretext they were men should be held accountable for the incident.
”Islam is a religion that facilitates practices, and the religious rule, in exceptional situations, are relaxed,” some of the students told the daily. “We do not see any necessity that is more pressing than rescuing the life of a human being from imminent death.”

Amna Bawazir’s death sparked a debate on Twitter by Saudis who created a hashtag to talk about the incident.  Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online. In the debate, many Saudis said the kingdom’s strictly enforced rules governing the segregation of the sexes were to blame for the delay in helping Amna Bawazeer.

In 2002, a fire broke out at a girl’s school in Mecca, killing at least 15
girls. The religious police would not allow the girls to escape, actually chased them back into the burning school, because they were not wearing headscarves or abayas.

Petition: Save my life, then my Modesty
Read more:

Al Arabiya

ABC news

Gulf News

41 Responses

  1. So sad to hear the life of a female in Saudi. All we can hope and fight against these crazy rules and to be put aside in this modern world, where women are equally talented as men in many areas.

  2. Sadly, if the most common cause of collapse that results in death from a cardiac condition, ventricular fibrillation is irreversible after between 90 seconds and three minutes in a way consistent with brain survival.
    The wide range of time is due to the many variables, ranging from oxygenation of the blood, any rescue efforts, temperature, oxygen content of the ambient atmosphere, etc.

    That said, delay in response will result in death. Simple first aid, with the use of CPR with AED are critical in saving lives.
    That first aid isn’t that performed by EMT’s or paramedics, but by staff or bystanders, as the greater the delay, the lower chance of survival of the victim.

    Now, the medical aspects aside, speedy response to any emergency is as critical as appropriate response.
    Delaying EMS or firefighters should never be permitted.
    And as a father of daughters and grandfather of granddaughters, in the case of the fire, it’d be open season on religious police.
    And I’m an extremely good hunter.

  3. If its true then all i can say is there is No value for human life

  4. I cannot understand why not wearing a scarf or an abaya would be worth not saving young girls from a burning building. If it is such a big issue, then just have extra scarves on the fire trucks and give them to them after they are safe! Religious police should be chased into the burning building for any wrongs they have committed and see how they like that!

  5. I heard a similar story about a passenger in a car accident. No man could put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding and save her life because she was Muslim and they were not related to her. I don’t know, but I believe Prophet Mohammed, PBUH, would have saved her life in a dignified manner and would have instructed men and women on how to handle future issues dealing with women in such life-threatening situations.

  6. About on par with Afghanistan when it comes to women and that’s not good.

    When I was in Saudi I was very concerned that if there had been a fire I could not have gotten out of the house we were staying in. The doors were locked and we did not have a key to unlock the doors. Finally my husband was given one. The housekeeper was locked in the house while we all went on a weekend trip. She could not have escaped in case of a fire. Such stupid ignorant ideas.

  7. Friend of Carol, I remember that story.
    Not every woman veiled in the time of the prophet anyway (only elite Jewish women did), and I would never believe, and nothing in the hadith or history we know of suggests that the prophet, his companions, or anybody from that world and time would leave a dying woman without care. It’s a travesty, it’s obscene.

    Wendy, that is a reasonable fear you had, that actually happens in SA, houses catch fire and all the women are locked up inside, no key, and they die.

  8. BTW, the Hospital was across the street according to her sister, (in Al Arabyia (Arabic)) There is also a nurse on staff, but she was helping somebody else somewhere else in the school.

  9. I guess this means there should be female paramedic programs and teams in place in KSA as well as a relaxation on gender separation. I don’t know why there was only one female nurse on a whole college campus, and I don’t understand why others in her class, especially the instructors, weren’t taught basic CPR/AED considering the woman had a history of heart problems. Perhaps this is a good reason to implement that all instructors, especially female ones, are certified in first aid/cpr with aed. Also, perhaps there should be special vehicles in case of emergency so women can drive across the street to the hospital.

  10. Very Sad. I read the story in Al-Arabiya. The school is denying blocking the ambulance, but the eyewitnesses contradict that. This should be investigated and if true all involved parties should be fired. The people in charge of stopping the ambulance should be charged with man slaughter.
    ” Also, perhaps there should be special vehicles in case of emergency so women can drive across the street to the hospital.”
    Don’t you think the obvious solution is to let ambulances through every time there is someone having a Freaking Heart Attack?

  11. It’s a sad thought that what is required is more women medical staff rather than allowing a man to help a woman in trouble. Stone age mentality no matter how you look at it.

  12. @MoQ,
    Yes, I think that is the obvious solution, but it wouldn’t harm women’s rights to take advantage of a negative situation by pushing for more women’s rights at the same time.

    My intention was to use their logic to hopefully not only allow men to treat women (and vice versa) but to also get more Saudi women in the healthcare field by actively seeking to hire more for all of the women’s universities in the area.

  13. Then, later on down the road (within a couple of years), you can have mixed paramedic teams at all hospitals in KSA. One step at a time, people.

  14. Or is that a bit too “stone age” for you all to handle?

  15. None of which addresses yet another issue with this particular victim.
    In what century do you think it will be when it would be considered acceptable in Saudi to expose a woman’s chest in order to use an AED or other defibrillator in a public space?
    For, that is the *only* way in which she would have survived. A timely intervention involving both CPR and the use of an AED to bring her heart into a rhythm consistent with the continuance of life.

    Of course, here in the US, I knew paramedics who were sued by a victim of a heart attack because they exposed her breasts in public when they defibrillated her in a parking lot. She won in court.
    Apparently, it was better to leave her die or suffer severe burns from the underwire in her bra…

    As for stone age, that is nonsense. We’re really talking early iron age here. ?

    More seriously though, such tragedies can and should be used to bring women’s rights forward.
    Especially such egregious things like chasing women back into a burning building because of a lack of a veil!
    Or not permitting EMS workers from entering to treat a victim of disease.

  16. It seems most logical to just stop this neurotic, unnatural and unhealthy segregation of the sexes, and just allow medical aid providers on campus, whether they are male or not. It’s just too stupid to even discuss. And definitely too stupid to support in any way.

  17. I think the obvious answer is that gender should not matter in any country when it comes to life or death circumstance or health in general. However, you can also use this scenario to push for more rights all the way around. That was my point. My point was not that it was right. My point was that a statement should be made allowing male health professionals to treat females (and vice versa) and that this is perfectly allowable in Islam (since that matters there) but what does it hurt to also push for more women in the medical field at the same time? Or I guess, we could simply forget about pushing for more women in health care and simply just make the one statement that allows men to care for women in the health sector, thus increasing the disparity between men and women in the health care fields in KSA. It’s obvious the KSA government needs to make a statement and push for allowing men and women to save the opposite gender’s life. I was talking about also using the same scenario for more women’s rights gains. But of course, that isn’t supported by you all?

  18. Not that a statement should be needed, but it apparently is since they were not allowed on the women’s campus there.

  19. @Strangeone,

    Don’t you think you are arguing against your own strawman argument? i.e. no one has made any argument that women should not be in the medical field (they are already in Saudi by the way), neither did anyone say women should not treat men and vice versa, etc.

    Your comments seem to miss the point, which is: this woman died because of the simple act of the administrators not allowing the Emergency Services MEN to save her. The simple solution for that is “all the rules of segregation should be ignored in case of emergencies” (i.e. life threatening medical emergency, fire in an elementary girls school, woman giving birth in a traffic jam, etc.)

  20. Men and women medical professionals do treat opposite genders all the time in Saudi. Hospitals are NOT segregated. That was not the issue here. The issue was not allowing men on a women’s campus where women were unveiled.

  21. given the high level of paranoia of unveiled females and nothing one can do about it. the paramedics should carry a couple abaya’s , that should resolve everything.

  22. I was an urologist in saudi for a while , and although my career didnt florish given the nature of my specialty i did have male patients. My husband had plenty of female patients too. and yes unveiled when medically required. . this was a decade or so ago, so unless things have taken a turn for the worse ( quite possible) hospitals were not gender segregated then.

  23. @MoQ, Sandy, Sorry; I did not realize there were already female paramedics in Saudi Arabia. I did realize that there were doctors that treated both genders, but didn’t know about the paramedics.

    @MoQ, I don’t consider it a strawman arguement (and I’m not even quite sure what you mean by that) because while what happened was wrong, it’s not like anyone can bring her back now. Sound calloused? People die all the time, and it sucks but I can’t bring them back. To the best of my knowledge, no one else can either. So you can sit and complain and say what a tragedy or you can look for solutions to hopefully prevent it from happening again. That’s the whole point in it making the news, is it not? To keep it from happening to someone else?

  24. I do not think there are female paramedics. My point it – a man treating a female patient wasn’t the issue- as that happens all the time. Letting a man into a “female only” zone, where women are dressed without veils was the issue.

  25. @StrangeOne,

    A strawman argument is when you make a position that others did not make, then proceed to argue against it like it was their position. I tried to explain that earlier. You can also look it up in any introductory logic book.

    “..or you can look for solutions to hopefully prevent it from happening again.”

    Again the only reasonable solution to prevent a tragedy like this in teh future is to let paramedics treat the woman having the emergency. Regardless, whether they are Men, Women or Jinns. All other arguments miss that simple point.

    And Sandy is correct, Saudi does not have women emergency paramedic services. Which again goes to the point, it does not matter if they are men or women. They are there with their ambulance. She is having a heart attack. Anyone with an ounce of sense will say she should be treated immediately and the same should happen in any similar future situations.

    Making broad arguments about women’s issues like driving, jobs, etc. just adds to the confusion (i.e. your strawman).

  26. @Strange One,
    I agree with Moq. Because it is the only solution. An effective ambulance service sends out whoever is closest to the target. They can’t fuss around making sure they have the correct gender of the patient. Also- what if the female team is out on a case and another accident involving women gets called it? It is an unwieldy way to deal with situation- and ultimately would fail.

    Now, what these “woman zones” could do is maintain a properly trained and equiped female paramedic staff at all times to address emergencies- then I suppose at the entrance they swap drivers so a man can drive to the hospital. Still utterly ridiculous- and costly and inefficient- but would help. Of course long term that would collapse as an idea as well. Because the whole general segregation nonsense- and subjugation of women nonsense- is just that. Nonsense.

  27. @Sandy,

    I am beginning to like the idea of Jinn as paramedics. It will solve many problems. For example gender will not be an issue. Traffic will be a breeze, they can just teleport. All what is needed is a dispatcher named Scottie.

  28. @MoQ,
    I think that’s a pretty big assumption that gender of Jinn won’t be an issue. However, a dispatcher named Scottie is ALWAYS a plus!

  29. I was just saying that whether the teams were male or female and the patient was male or female doesn’t matter; just simply the encouragement for more female paramedics. The whole point is to get women into fields they aren’t traditionally in. It’s a sidenote, like when in politics there is a small addendum mostly unrelated to a bill that benefits a few people. Only in this case, the few people benefiting would be women who wanted to work as paramedics. But I guess it is lost on you all.

    I already stated the obvious solution would be to make sure that paramedics are saving lives irrespective of gender. I thought that was made clear.

    But I think I may start my own website to promote understanding between Arab and American cultures in general because this blog doesn’t seem to be doing that anymore; it’s too one-sided.

    Take, for example, this video of a girl being talked out of wearing hijab when the other students in the class (some of which cover their hair) are expressing themselves through how they dress. Why should she be any different? Is not taking away self-expression, in any form, taking away the sacredness of free will? And I am not talking about something that affects others’ free will, but a personal thing that is no one’s business, other than her guardian(s).

  30. So I added a link and the comment went into moderation. In the meantime, just know that I think the blog is becoming too one-sided and not promoting inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue like Carol would have wanted. If I really want her legacy to continue, I’ll start my own blog related to a similar topic. Only instead of Saudi-American, mine will be Arab-Asian-American since that’s what my family is.

  31. @StrangeOne,

    Do you realize that the video you posted is a work of fiction and has the feel of a propaganda piece. The film is in Spanish, so I assume it is supposed to take place in one of the Spanish speaking countries. For your info none of those countries has a prohibition against Hijab. So again, you are building your new argument based on a strawman. Sorry, to keep pointing that out, but you are not able to avoid this type of fallacy.

    Now regarding the blog, I have been coming here for years. The discussions on this blog have had the same veracity it has now, especially when it comes to women’s issues. However, I think it is a good idea for you to start your own blog to accomplish what you desire instead of criticizing others.

  32. @Strange One,
    Usually addendums are shorter than the main bill and are labeled as such. You are the one that seemingly referred to the ideas in your “addendum” in terms of:

    “…you can look for solutions to hopefully prevent it from happening again.” and “one step at a time people”.

    If that made it seem to us you were offering your addendum as a solution- perhaps consider the words you wrote which emphasized the addendum over the obvious solution.

    I am curious- in what way is the blog one-sided? I see mostly the same people here with the same positions discussing the recycled same issues over and over. Not sure what has changed.

  33. I will ask again, Strange One … where are you living???

  34. Is the blog getting too repetitive? It does seem that the same issues come up again and again: Girls and women being left to die rather than being seen unveiled is one of them.
    Women ”will be driving real soon but not just yet” is another one, little girls being sold into ”marriage” with old pedophiles is another one. Religious police chasing people to their deaths, religious police messing up the Riyad bookfair, almost yearly…
    Most of the topics come from Arabic news outlets or videos, Sometimes because people ask us to write about a certain subject. Should we diversify? In what way? If anybody has a topic they would like to see addressed please let us know.

    Strange One, great if you start your own blog! Please give us the link if you do start one up.

  35. To be clear on this issue, since some of the discussions went off topic. Saudi does not have laws to prohibit male paramedics from treating women. What is likely in this case is an administrator with extra conservative leaning decided that this may break the protocol of the school. Especially as administrators in girl/women educational institutions view themselves as guardians responsible for preventing the intermingling of the young women at the college with men. i.e. the holy duty of preventing vice.

    Never the less, stopping a dying patient from receiving life saving treatment, should be viewed as criminal. The government should treat this case for what it is: a potential criminal case resulting in the death of a young woman. After full investigation any guilty party(s) should be brought to justice.

  36. Moq, I understand what you wrote about the administrator(s). I can (if I try hard) imagine what a horrible problem this must have been for a person of a very narrow fundamentalist mindset.
    However, I do think that a life threatening situation should obviate all other rules. And that should be a clear rule, or law. To help such narrow minded bigoted people to do the right thing.

    But then we know from earlier situations that these people have been brought to believe that the death of one or more women or girls is less bad than that any of them being seen without being veiled.
    I suppose that is what really needs to change, the idea that the death, or potential death of women is less bad than women being seen unveiled.

    Women not being veiled really is nothing to worry about. Women are unveiled in the rest of the world and many used to be in Saudi Arabia before the religious policed forced all women to veil, and with no ill effects. So it’s quite possible to overcome this neurotic artificially induced mental problem.

  37. هذا ضرب سافر لكل القيم الإنسانية والدينية.

    This is an English language blog. Please write your comments in English.

  38. StrangeOne … is there a reason why you don’t say which country you are living in??

  39. Hi StrangeOne…

    I have been gone from the blog for a long time but it seems to me that your tone has shifted significantly from the last time I read your posts. It felt to me like you were moderate in your tone of not only islam but of other faiths. I thought you took a middle ground approach overall and tried to have a balanced view.

    Now, I admit I have only read this one post in full, but I was surprised that you seem to be more defending of the Saudi view, and more sharp toward the fellow bloggers who have been here for a very long time. That did not seem to be your style in the past. I don’t notice a difference in Sandy’s or Moq’s tone but yours seems to have changed to be less gentle and more sarcastic. I found myself thinking “what changed for StrangeOne”.

    I don’t think that this blog has become any more or less for or against islam/Saudis than it has been in the past. I breeze by every so often and I am a “blurker” of sorts, but the topics and content seem to be similar to what has been here for a long time.

  40. For your information I am a student in this beautiful university and the picture that shows some women they are not from my university:) and this accident happened but in our universities we don’t have crimes like kill or rape:) please stop lying about my country

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,277 other followers

%d bloggers like this: