In Iraq, demonstrators stormed the Swedish embassy in the capital Baghdad. This should show videos distributed on the Internet.
According to the videos, early in the morning they were waving flags and holding signs depicting influential Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The incident happened before a protest planned for today in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, where a Koran is to be burned.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said it was informed about the situation and was in constant contact with the local staff. “Our employees are safe,” said the press office in the Swedish capital Stockholm. “We condemn all attacks on diplomats and employees of international organizations.” It is the job of Iraqi security forces to protect diplomatic missions. Videos showed little resistance from security forces during the night’s commotion.
The videos showed dozens of men climbing over the fence protecting the building. They could be heard trying to force open a front door. Another video showed how apparently a small fire was started. Other footage showed men in a room while an alarm sounded in the background. Others prayed in front of the embassy.
Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemns the action
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemned the action. “The Iraqi government has directed the relevant security agencies to conduct an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures to clarify the circumstances of the incident,” it said in a statement. Those involved should be identified and held “accountable under the law”.
Burning of the Koran in Stockholm sparks outrage
Yesterday, the Swedish police approved the protest action planned for today in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm. As reported by the Swedish news agency TT, the organizers announced when the demonstration was registered that they wanted to burn Iraqi flags and a Koran. According to the report, only two people should take part in the demonstration.
Swedish media reported that Iraqi Salwan Momika, who fled to Sweden, organized the demonstration. In June, during a protest in front of the Great Mosque in Stockholm, Momika burned some pages from the Koran and stepped on the holy book of Islam. The action provoked widespread outrage in the Muslim world. Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Sweden, and Saudi Arabia summoned the Swedish ambassador.
Expulsion demanded by Sweden’s ambassador
In Iraq, there were already widespread protests in June. During the day, demonstrators stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad. On another day of protests, thousands demonstrated on the country’s streets. Then, as now, they asked the Iraqi authorities to expel Sweden’s ambassador from Iraq.
The right to public demonstrations is strong in Sweden and protected by the constitution. The blasphemy laws were abolished in the 1970s. For Muslims, however, the burning of the Koran is a blasphemous desecration of the sacred text of their religion.
The Shiite Al-Sadr is one of the most influential cleric in the Arab world. His Islamist movement is made up of millions of mostly poorer people from urban areas. After a long political crisis, his supporters stormed and occupied the government palace with the office of the prime minister in Baghdad and the parliament building in 2022. After the Koran was burned in June, al-Sadr called for an “angry protest” in front of the Swedish embassy.