Iraq expels Swedish ambassador as man desecrates Koran in Sweden

AP , Thursday 20 Jul 2023

Iraq's prime minister ordered the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador from Iraq and the withdrawal of the Iraqi charge d’affaires from Sweden on Thursday as a man desecrated of a copy of the Koran in Stockholm.

koran
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr raise his portrait as they gather for a protest outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on July 20, 2023. AFP

 

The diplomatic blowup came hours after protesters angered by the planned burning of a copy of the Koran stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, breaking into the compound and lighting a small fire.

The Swedish Embassy announced it had closed to visitors. Prime Minister Shia al-Sudani said that Iraqi authorities will prosecute the arsonists as well, referring “negligent security officials” for investigation.

The man kicked and stood on the Koran during his protest at the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm as Swedish police stood by.

Protesters angered by the planned burning of a copy of the Koran stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad early Thursday, breaking into the compound and lighting a small fire and setting off a diplomatic furor.

Online videos showed demonstrators at the diplomatic post waving flags and signs showing the influential Iraqi Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr ahead of a planned burning of the Islamic holy book Thursday in Stockholm by an Iraqi asylum-seeker who burned a copy of the Koran in a previous demonstration last month.

Following the incident, the Swedish Embassy announced it had closed to visitors without specifying when it would reopen. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani convened a meeting with security officials and said in a statement afterwards that Iraqi authorities will prosecute those responsible for the arson as well referring “negligent security officials” for investigation.

However, the statement also said that the Iraqi government had informed its Swedish counterpart on Wednesday that Iraq would cut off diplomatic relations should the Koran burning go forward.

 Koran burnings in the past have sparked protests across the Muslim world, some turning violent. In Afghanistan, the Taliban have suspended all the activities of Swedish organizations in the country in response to the recent Koran burning.

An Iraqi Christian immigrant last month burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, triggering widespread condemnation in the Islamic world. According to Swedish news agency TT, the same man was one of those who planned to burn the Koran on Thursday.

Stockholm police spokesman Mats Eriksson confirmed that police had granted permission for a demonstration involving two people outside the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm on Thursday. He could not say whether the protesters were planning to burn the Koran.

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