Swedish Embassy in Baghdad Stormed

Angry Muslims in Baghdad have stormed the Swedish embassy and set it on fire following the announcement of another Quran burning in Stockholm. The Iraqi government intends to punish those involved.

Demonstrators have stormed the Swedish embassy in the capital city of Baghdad, as shown in videos circulating on the internet. The videos depict them waving flags and holding signs featuring influential Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in the early morning. The incident occurred ahead of a planned protest outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm today, where a Quran is to be burned.

The announced Quran burning has also angered the Iraqi government, which threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Sweden. The office of Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani announced on Twitter on Thursday, following a crisis meeting, that if another Quran was ignited in Sweden as it happened in June, Iraq would break ties with Sweden. The office stated that they had informed the Swedish government “through diplomatic channels.”

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that they were aware of the situation and in constant contact with their staff on the ground. “Our employees are safe,” the press office in Stockholm announced. “We condemn all attacks on diplomats and personnel of international organizations.” It is the responsibility of Iraqi security forces to protect diplomatic representations. There was little resistance from security forces seen in videos during the night-time tumult.

The videos showed dozens of men climbing over the fence surrounding the building. There were attempts to break open an entrance door in one video. Another video showed what appeared to be a small fire being set. Men were also seen praying in a room while an alarm was heard in the background.

Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the action

According to a report by AFP, the Iraqi riot police were present with numerous forces and used water cannons to disperse the demonstrators from the embassy. An AFP photographer observed security forces using electroshock batons against the participants of the protest. The demonstrators reportedly responded with throwing stones. Civil defense units were on-site to extinguish the fire, as observed by an AFP photographer.

The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the action. “The Iraqi government has instructed the relevant security authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures to clarify the circumstances of the incident,” the statement said. The participants should be identified and “held accountable in accordance with the law.”

Quran burning in Stockholm sparks outrage

Yesterday, the Swedish police approved the planned protest outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm for today. As reported by the Swedish news agency TT, the organizers announced their intention to burn Iraqi flags and a Quran during the demonstration application. According to the report, only two people were expected to participate in the demonstration.

Swedish media reported that Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden, organized the demonstration. In June, Momika burned several pages of the Quran during a protest in front of the Grand Mosque in Stockholm and stepped on the sacred scripture of Islam. The action sparked widespread outrage in the Muslim world. Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Sweden, and Saudi Arabia summoned the Swedish ambassador.

There were broad protests in Iraq in June as well. Demonstrators stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad during the day, and thousands took to the streets in the country. At that time, just as now, they demanded that the Iraqi authorities expel Sweden’s ambassador from Iraq.

In Sweden, the right to public demonstrations is strongly protected and guaranteed by the constitution. Blasphemy laws were abolished in the 1970s. However, for Muslims, burning the Quran constitutes a blasphemous desecration of their sacred religious text.

Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, is one of the most influential religious figures in the Arab world. His Islamist movement consists of millions of predominantly poor urban people. Following a prolonged political crisis, his followers stormed and occupied the government palace, including the Prime Minister’s office, and the parliament building in Baghdad in 2022. After the Quran burning in June, al-Sadr also called for a “furious protest” outside the Swedish embassy.