The family of a female Saudi student who died from heart failure said authorities at her university prevented medics from getting to her in time because of rules barring men from entering the women-only part of the campus, Saudi media has reported.
Al-Arabiya television's news website quoted Fahda Bawazir, the sister of Amena Bawazir, as saying that the ambulance arrived at a campus gate shortly after her sister became ill at around 11am.
"But the medics were not allowed to enter the campus until 1pm", she said, and instead university authorities prevented them from entering, making them wait outside until a gate was secured in a way "that did not allow the (male) medics and females in the building to mix."
The King Saud University in Riyadh, where the girl was studying for a Master's degree, has strenuously denied the accusation and said Ms Bawazir, who had a history of heart disease, received rapid medical attention after suffering a stroke last Sunday, causing her heart and lungs to stop functioning.
A university spokesman said 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 pm, ten minutes later and transported Amena to the university hospital where she was pronounced dead at 13.39 pm.
"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 strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, which forbids mixing between men and women and requires sexes to be segregated at all Saudi universities. Women's movements are restricted, often requiring the permission of a male guardian.
Women also have separate seating areas and even separate entrances in "family" sections of restaurants and cafes where single males are not allowed to enter.
It was not until September last year that Saudi Arabia's cabinet passed the passed a ban on domestic violence and abuse against women for the first time in the Kingdom history.
The incident echoes the 2002 tragedy that saw 15 girls die inside a school in the holy city of Mecca when police prevented them from leaving the burning building because they were not wearing appropriate Islamic dress.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content