World News

Senegal police fire tear gas at anti-gay protesters

DAKAR (Reuters) - Police in Senegal fired tear gas to disperse anti-homosexual demonstrators outside Dakar’s main mosque on Friday after the publication of photos from a gay wedding in the mostly Muslim nation.

Gossip magazine Icone published pictures in its February edition apparently taken during a marriage ceremony between two men in the West African country, where homosexuality is illegal.

“We want homosexuals to be wiped out in this country. We will continue to fight for Senegal to become a Muslim nation,” said Cheikh Tidiane Ndiaye, a fisheries agent among the stone-throwing demonstrators around the Grande Mosquee de Dakar.

“This practice does not conform to the religion practiced in our country,” he said, dressed in traditional blue robes and a white skull cap, as police fired tear gas behind him.

Piles of rubbish were set ablaze in several blocks around the mosque and groups of youths shouting “We don’t want homosexuals” barricaded roads.

The protest was called after police released a group of men held for questioning following the publication of the photos. Local authorities had granted permission for the protest but later changed their minds and ordered police to break it up.

“The police wanted to ban the march,” said Landing Goudiaby, 36, unemployed. “Homosexuals are not welcome in our country. They’re not tolerated in Senegal.”

Around him, the protesters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

Newspapers have given front page treatment to what has been dubbed by media “the gay soap opera”. Radio phone-ins have been swamped by calls, the majority strongly anti-homosexual.

Some demonstrators said they had been angered by official signs of tolerance towards homosexuals weeks before Senegal hosts a summit of Islamic heads of state.

As in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, homosexuals live an underground life in Senegal where they are known as “gor-jiguene” (men-women). Most people in the former French colony consider homosexuality to be “unAfrican”, a psychological disorder imported by Europeans.

Thirty-eight of 85 U.N. member states which outlaw homosexuality are in Africa. South Africa became the first African nation to allow gay marriages in 2006.

“Yes, it is a world phenomenon, but the sacred texts are against it,” said evangelical pastor Michel Andrade, watching the Dakar demonstration, a wooden crucifix hanging from his neck. “Men of God don’t tolerate it.”

Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Robert Woodward