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Saudi student’s death sparks outrage

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Thousands of Saudis vented their anger online over a report Thursday that staff at a Riyadh university had barred male paramedics from entering a women’s-only campus to assist a student who had suffered a heart attack and later died.

The Okaz newspaper said administrators at the King Saud University impeded efforts by paramedics to save the student’s life because of rules banning men. According to the paper, the incident took place Wednesday and the school staff took an hour before letting the paramedics in.

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However, the school’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 student, Amna Bawazeer.

Omar said he met Bawazeer’s father, who told him his daughter had heart problems. The rector said Bawazeer suffered a heart attack and collapsed suddenly.

Her death sparked a debate on Twitter. 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 care.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam. Sexes are segregated in schools and almost all Saudi universities. Women also have separate seating areas and often separate entrances in ‘‘family’’ sections of restaurants and cafes where single males are not allowed. The kingdom’s top cleric has warned against the mixing of the genders, saying it poses a threat to female chastity and society.

Professors at King Saud University have demanded an investigation.

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