Swedish Embassy in Baghdad Stormed by Protesters in Response to Planned Quran Burning in Stockholm

by Michael Nguyen
Quran burning

Early Thursday, a group of protesters outraged by the upcoming burning of a Quran copy broke into the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, setting a small fire on the premises.

Videos circulating online depicted demonstrators at the diplomatic compound brandishing flags and signs featuring Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader. The planned Quran burning was scheduled to take place in Stockholm on Thursday.

The footage showed several men scaling the fence surrounding the embassy, accompanied by the sound of attempts to force open a front door. Another video displayed a small fire being ignited. Additional clips depicted men, some shirtless due to the summer heat, within a room at the embassy, accompanied by the audible sound of an alarm.

Subsequently, some of the protesters conducted predawn prayers outside the embassy.

As dawn broke, law enforcement and other security officials gathered at the embassy, while thin columns of smoke continued to rise. Firefighters endeavored to extinguish the flames from a ladder mounted on a fire truck. A few demonstrators remained on-site, holding placards depicting al-Sadr’s face, seemingly undisturbed by the police.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry released a statement affirming that “our embassy staff are safe,” without providing further details.

“We condemn all attacks on diplomats and personnel from international organizations,” the ministry emphasized. “Attacks on embassies and diplomats represent a grave violation of the Vienna Convention. It is the responsibility of Iraqi authorities to safeguard diplomatic missions and staff.”

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement denouncing the attack, without clarifying how the breach occurred or identifying the perpetrators.

“The Iraqi government has instructed the competent security authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and implement the necessary security measures to uncover the circumstances of the incident, identify the individuals responsible, and hold them accountable in accordance with the law,” stated the Foreign Ministry.

Iraqi police did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

According to the Swedish news agency TT, Swedish police approved a demonstration permit for an event planned outside the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm on Thursday. The permit reportedly indicated that two demonstrators intended to burn a Quran and the Iraqi flag.

For Muslims, the burning of the Quran represents a blasphemous desecration of their religion’s sacred text. Past Quran burnings have triggered protests throughout the Muslim world, some of which turned violent. In response to the recent Quran burning, the Taliban suspended all activities of Swedish organizations in Afghanistan.

In a separate incident last month, an Iraqi Christian immigrant burned a Quran outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, prompting widespread condemnation within the Islamic world. Earlier this year, a similar protest occurred outside Turkey’s Embassy led by a far-right activist, complicating Sweden’s efforts to secure NATO membership.

In June, supporters of al-Sadr stormed the embassy in Baghdad during daylight hours to protest the Quran burning. The country experienced a subsequent day of widespread demonstrations. Protesters then and on Thursday demanded that Iraq expel Sweden’s ambassador.

Al-Sadr, the adaptable son of a prominent Shiite cleric who was assassinated in a 1999 attack allegedly orchestrated by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, swiftly organized dispossessed Shiites against the American occupation following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Both Saddam loyalists and Shiite extremists subsequently launched an insurgency against U.S. forces. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia engaged in protracted clashes with American forces throughout 2004 in Baghdad and other cities. Later, his forces were believed to have participated in the sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis that plagued Iraq for several years following the bombing of one of the holiest Shiite Islamic sites.

Since then, significant changes have occurred.

Al-Sadr’s followers have participated in Iraqi military offensives against the Islamic State group in cities like Tikrit. He has organized rallies protesting government corruption, including breaching Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government offices and numerous foreign embassies.

In August of last year, he announced his intention to withdraw from politics after nearly a year of deadlock in forming a new Cabinet. Despite his party winning the largest share of seats in the October 2021 parliamentary elections, it was insufficient to secure a majority government.

This report includes contributions from Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Quran burning

Q: What led to the protesters storming the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad?

A: The protesters were angered by the planned burning of a copy of the Quran in Stockholm, which prompted them to break into the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad and express their discontent.

Q: How did the Swedish Foreign Ministry respond to the incident?

A: The Swedish Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the embassy and affirmed the safety of their staff. They emphasized that attacks on diplomats and embassies violate the Vienna Convention and called on Iraqi authorities to protect diplomatic missions.

Q: Was there any official response from the Iraqi government?

A: Yes, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack. They announced an urgent investigation to uncover the circumstances of the incident, identify the perpetrators, and hold them accountable in accordance with the law.

Q: What is the significance of the planned Quran burning in Stockholm?

A: Quran burnings are considered a blasphemous desecration of the Islamic holy book, which deeply offends Muslims. Such acts have historically sparked protests, sometimes turning violent, across the Muslim world.

Q: How has the Quran burning incident affected international relations?

A: The incident has led to diplomatic tensions between Sweden and Iraq. It has also raised concerns about freedom of speech, religious sensitivity, and the need to respect minority communities within the context of international relations.

Q: Who is Muqtada al-Sadr, and why were his supporters involved in the protest?

A: Muqtada al-Sadr is an influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader. His supporters were involved in the protest due to their allegiance to him and their opposition to the Quran burning, which they found offensive and sacrilegious.

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InquisitiveMind July 20, 2023 - 12:28 pm

I wonder how this will impact international relations. Freedom of speech is important, but it’s crucial to balance it with respect for religious sensitivities. Diplomatic tensions could have far-reaching consequences.

PeaceMaker2023 July 20, 2023 - 2:34 pm

It’s disheartening to see conflicts arising over religious differences. We should focus on promoting understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among diverse communities.

CrazyCatLady July 20, 2023 - 4:45 pm

Wow, the situation is getting intense. Embassies should be protected, and diplomats should feel safe. Hope they find the culprits behind the attack and take appropriate action.

GrammarNerd77 July 20, 2023 - 5:02 pm

Spelling and grammar errors in this text are driving me crazy! Proper punctuation and proofreading are essential for clear communication. Let’s strive for accuracy in our writing.

Booklover22 July 20, 2023 - 11:26 pm

It’s so sad to see the disrespect towards a sacred text. Quran burnings only fuel anger and divide people further. We need more understanding and respect for different beliefs.

SoccerFan123 July 21, 2023 - 5:56 am

Muqtada al-Sadr is a polarizing figure. His supporters are passionate about their beliefs, but resorting to violence is never the answer. Peaceful dialogue would yield better results.


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