BAGHDAD – According to an Iraqi government spokesman, Iraq has expelled the Swedish ambassador and is withdrawing its envoy from Stockholm for permitting the desecration of the Holy Qur’an.
Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani’s office released a statement Thursday saying the prime minister “instructed the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad to leave Iraqi territory.” The statement says the decision was “prompted by the Swedish government’s repeated permission for the burning of the Qur’an, insulting Islamic sanctities and the burning of the Iraqi flag.”
The statement confirmed that Baghdad had also “informed the Swedish government that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Qur’an on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations.”
Before the statement was released on Thursday, hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, setting part of it on fire as a protest against a second planned burning of the Holy Qur’an.
It’s being reported that the angry protesters are supporters of prominent Iraqi Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. They stormed the embassy building’s main gates while holding up copies of the Qur’an, chanting pro-Sadr slogans.
“We are mobilized today to denounce the burning of the Qur’an, which is all about love and faith,” the AFP was told by one of the protesters in attendance. “We demand that the Swedish government and the Iraqi government stop this type of initiative.”
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry condemned the torching of the Swedish embassy. A statement was released saying security forces had been ordered by the government to launch a swift investigation to identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions.
After the incident, Sweden’s Foreign Ministry announced that the Baghdad embassy’s staff were “safe.” The ministry said Iraqi authorities must protect diplomatic staff and mission. It added that attacks on diplomats and embassies “constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention.”
Thursday’s events in Baghdad follow the approval of Swedish authorities for an assembly to be held in Stockholm later in the day, where organizers were planning to burn an Iraqi flag and a copy of the Muslim holy book. According to Swedish media reports, two people were set to participate in the demonstration. One of them is Salwan Momika, who set a Qur’an on fire outside a mosque in Stockholm in June.
Swedish police protected Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi immigrant, who stomped on the Qur’an and then set it on fire in front of the largest mosque in Stockholm on June 28. The incident coincided with the beginning of Eid al-Adha and the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, drawing anger from Muslims across the world.