Friday, March 9, 2012
Dozens of female students were injured on Wednesday after police and security forces stormed a demonstration at Abha's King Khaled University. Up to 1,000 students were protesting alleged corruption, discrimination, and failure to remove rubbish at two female campuses.
University officials said law enforcement moved in after students attacked staff, and said intimidation by a guardian was behind the failure to clean rubbish. Awad Al-Qarni, the uni's head of PR, said students "saying their demands were not fulfilled" attacked staff on Tuesday. The next morning, he said, the administration offered dialogue to protestors but began using fire hoses and extinguishers on them when they "started destroying university property".
Students have said cleaning was never done properly. Reports suggest a crush of people injured some, with one report claiming a woman died in hospital after having a seizure, and another miscarried.
As well as police and security forces, the Department of Health, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), and the Red Crescent were on the scene. An Asir Department of Health spokesperson said twenty-two casualties were distributed between, at least, Asir Central, Ahad Rafidah General, Abha General, and Khamis Mushayt General hospitals, and military hospital, with 31 more treated on-site. Haia sent 50 commissioners and area spokesman Awad Al-Asmari denied they had injured anyone, saying they provided assistance to the protestors. "On the other hand," he said, "the Haia presence created a sense of peace and security in the girls".
One student said there were not enough chairs in lecture theaters, and that the administration ignored students; another said she "[doesn't] go to classes often because of the poor conditions in the university. Faculty members and administrative officials treat us badly." She described having "to walk on mounds of garbage that have accumulated close to the cafeteria". A parent said water taps did not work. All wished to remain anonymous or went only by their initials.
It is reported thirty professors have stepped down, with a protest demanding the president's resignation scheduled for tomorrow.
== Sources ==
"One dead after police storm Saudi women's university protest" — The Australian, March 10, 2012
"University students hurt in protests" — Arab News, March 9, 2012
"Women 'injured' in Saudi university protest" — BBC News Online, March 8, 2012