Republican Palace, Baghdad

Protestors Storm Swedish Embassy in Iraq Following Quran Desecration in Stockholm

Outraged by the scheduled act of burning a Quran by an Iraqi man in Sweden, scores of demonstrators forcefully entered the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad on July 20, taking control of the diplomatic premises and initiating a fire, as Iraq expelled Sweden’s ambassador and recalled its highest-ranking diplomatic representative from the Nordic nation.

Several hours after the desecration of Islam’s holiest book, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani severed diplomatic relations with Sweden as a form of protest.

Early on July 20, demonstrators forcefully entered the Swedish diplomatic post, brandishing flags and signs featuring the prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric and political figure Muqtada al-Sadr.

The embassy assault occurred just before an intended Quran burning event in Stockholm, to be carried out by an Iraqi asylum-seeker who had previously burned a copy of the Islamic holy book during a demonstration the previous month.

According to Ali Jabar, Abby Sewell and David Keyton in the Associated Press, two men staged a protest against Islam near the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm on July 20. During the demonstration, one of them was observed stepping on and kicking a copy of the Quran, but there was no indication that he burned the book. The news agency also reported that the men kicked an Iraqi flag and pictures of Iraqi cleric al-Sadr as well as the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Swedish media identified one of the individuals involved as Salwan Momika, an Iraqi of Christian descent residing in Sweden who identifies as an atheist.

Some 50 individuals, including journalists and a small group of counter-demonstrators who were chanting religious slogans, observed the protest from behind police barricades. Plainclothes and uniformed officers were present nearby, keeping watch during the demonstration.

After the protest and Sudani’s announcement, the head of Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission declared the suspension of Swedish communications company Ericsson’s license to operate in Iraq. The Ministry of Communications issued a statement indicating its intention to cut off all business relations with Swedish companies.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry released a statement assuring the safety of its personnel. “We condemn all attacks on diplomats and staff from international organizations,” the ministry said. “Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention. Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff.”

Following a meeting with security officials in Baghdad, Iraq’s premier stated that the individuals behind the arson attack on the Swedish Embassy would face prosecution. Additionally, he mentioned that “negligent security officials” would be subject to investigation.