Iraq expels Swedish ambassador after a man stomped on a copy of the Koran in Stockholm

Protester Salwan Momika, who planned to burn a copy of the Koran and the Iraqi flag, is escorted by police to a location outside the Iraqi embassy, ​​in Stockholm, Sweden, July 20, 2023. TT News Agency/Caisa Rasmussen via REUTERS (TT NEWS AGENCY/)

Iraq expelled this Thursday the ambassador of Sweden after a man trampled on a copy of the Koran in Stockholm, in a demonstration authorized by the Scandinavian government, which caused the fire of its embassy in Baghdad at dawn.

Salwan Momikaa 37-year-old Iraqi refugee living in Sweden, trampled Islam’s holy book on Thursday during the protest but refrained from burning it, as he had said he would, according to a journalist from AFP.

In the request that he presented to the authorities, the organizer of the demonstration indicated that his intention was to burn the Koran and the Iraqi flag in front of the embassy of that country in Stockholm.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al Sudani, “ordered the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad to leave the territory” according to a statement from his office.

The decision was made by “the repeated authorization of the Swedish government to burn the holy Qur’aninsulting Islamic sanctities and burning the Iraqi flag.”

The authorities also decided to suspend the operating license of the Swedish telecommunications giant ericssonaccording to a statement released by the state press agency INA.

In protest of the authorization granted by the Swedish government, the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was set on fire at dawn, in a protest organized by followers of the influential religious leader Moqtada Sadr.

Protesters clash with members of the security forces as they gather near the Swedish embassy in Baghdad hours after the embassy was stormed and burned ahead of an expected Koran burning in Stockholm, in Baghdad, Iraq.  July 20, 2023. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
Protesters clash with members of the security forces as they gather near the Swedish embassy in Baghdad hours after the embassy was stormed and burned ahead of an expected Koran burning in Stockholm, in Baghdad, Iraq. July 20, 2023. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad (AHMED SAAD/)

The Iraqi government condemned the attack on the embassy, ​​but also issued a warning to Stockholm if it allowed the protest to go ahead.

The Iraqi executive had threatened to “break” diplomatic relations with Sweden if a new Quran burning were to take place, according to Al Sudani’s office.

Momika had already pinned some pages of a copy of the Koran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque on June 28.

right to protest

The Swedish police decided to authorize the protest as it complied with legislation on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

“The Constitution establishes that many reasons are needed to deny a person a permit for a public assembly, so the day before yesterday we granted a permit to an individual to protest,” he declared. Osterling Wavefrom the Stockholm police.

The previous burning of the Koran, in June, provoked a wave of international criticism and anger in the Muslim community.

Early Thursday morning, hundreds of people gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, scaled the walls and set it on fire.

Clashes also broke out with the police, who used water cannons to disperse the protesters, who in turn responded with stone throwing.

“We have mobilized to denounce the burning of the Koran, which is nothing more than love and faith,” said Hassan Ahmed, one of the protesters.

Around the diplomatic building, some demonstrators displayed copies of the Koran and portraits of Mohammed Sadr, an important religious cleric and father of Moqtada, a journalist from AFP.

Calm was restored in the morning. The extent of the damage to the building is not yet known, but the Swedish Foreign Ministry reported that its staff were “safe.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstromlater summoned the Iraqi charge d’affaires in the Scandinavian country.

“What occurred is totally unacceptable and the government condemns these attacks in the strongest possible way,” he said in a statement.

Billström recalled that the Iraqi authorities have an obligation to protect diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention.


“It is unacceptable that the Iraqi security forces did not act to prevent protesters from breaking into the Swedish embassy compound a second time and damaging it,” reacted the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller.

Sudani condemned “in the harshest terms” the events that occurred at the Swedish embassy, ​​which weeks ago was the target of a fleeting assault by protesters.

This is a “serious security breach that requires immediate action,” the Iraqi government said in a statement.

Some 20 protesters were detained, according to a security source, and the Prime Minister’s services reported that it was decided to bring them “to justice.”

Iraq also stated that it “reaffirms its commitment to ensure the safety and security of all diplomatic missions, and promises to deal with any attacks directed against them.”

This is not the first time that holy books have been burned in Sweden and other European countries, sometimes at the initiative of far-right movements.

(With information from AFP)

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