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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 16:14 GMT
Police break up Niger anti-fashion demo
Outfit from Alphadi's collection.  Photo by permission Alphadi.com
Alphadi's designs do not conform with the Islamic dress code
Police in Niger fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of people protesting against a fashion show due to take place later this week in the capital Niamey.

More than 800 Islamic clerics and students gathered outside the Niger parliament building demanding the cancellation of the International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA), which they said would incite people to fornication.

At least eight people have been injured and many more detained.

Witnesses told the Reuters news agency that the demonstration was called by individuals rather than organisations after the government threatened to dissolve any group taking a public stand against the festival.

Protests

Religious leaders have been condemning the festival since the beginning of October on broadcasts on local FM radio stations.

Alek Wek models Lacroix.  Photo by permission of Alphadi.com
FIMA includes African models such as Sudan's Alek Wek
The festival, which attracts large numbers of tourists from Europe, is due to be held in a specially constructed tented village on a beach on the river Niger near Niamey.

Its motto is "Culture, Peace and Development."

It is the second such event organised by Niger-born, Paris-based fashion designer Alphadi bringing together fashion designers from across Africa together with well-known designers from France, Italy and Japan.

The first FIMA, which was held in the northern town of Agadez in 1998, received backing from the Niger political establishment.

Islamic organisations tried but failed to prevent it taking place.

Popular support

Papers in Niamey have received anonymous tracts denouncing the fashion show as "satanic" and saying it would "call down the wrath of Allah on our people."

Photo by permission of Alphadi.com
The organiser, Alphadi, is from Niger.
A correspondent for the BBC in Niger says opponents of the event say it will be responsible for widespread debauchery and prostitution that will bring Aids to Niger.

They say the influx of tourists will result in the seduction of young girls.

Our correspondent says the Imams are gaining support amongst the public in the capital.

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