Mob assaults Swedish embassy in Iraq in protest over Koran burnings and prompts suspension of diplomatic relations

Political leader Muqtada Al-Sadr called on his followers to attack the embassy after it was learned that an activist would burn another Quran in Stockholm on Thursday. Swedish courts uphold the right to free speech of its citizens.

An angry mob attacked the Swedish embassy in Iraq during the early hours of Wednesday night into Thursday morning, according to reports given by the Swedish government to the media. This is the second time this has happened, and always for the same reasons. Rioters were protesting against the burning of the Koran during demonstrations in Sweden. This attack heightens tensions between Sweden and Muslim countries, including Turkey, which blocked Sweden's accession to NATO until July. According to official sources, there were no human casualties in the attack.

According to local reports, a large group of men approached the vicinity of the embassy compound with a violent attitude. Videos circulating on social networks show how the Iraqi mob subsequently managed to enter the facility. According to the Swedish government, the building was set on fire. Some local sources claim that the action of the authorities was minimal and did not prevent the attack from taking place.

The assailants were carrying portraits of political leader and Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, who despite being the winner of the last elections, failed to become the head of the Iraqi government. Muqtada al-Sadr retains vigorous support on the streets of Baghdad. His followers attacked the high-security Green Zone several times throughout 2021 and 2022. The cleric called on his followers to demonstrate against Sweden for allowing the burning of Quranic books.

A Koran burning is scheduled to take place again this Thursday, in the form of a government-sanctioned demonstration in Stockholm, in front of the Iraqi embassy. It will involve the same person who starred in the previous one: Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi with Swedish nationality. Momika burned the Koran in Stockholm, in front of the city's main mosque. Before this, he trampled and rubbed it with slices of cooked ham. The Swedish judiciary upheld Momika's right to demonstrate in this way, even though he was initially charged with a hate crime.

Sweden summoned the head of the Iraqi delegation in Stockholm to ask for explanations for these events. The Swedish government accuses the Iraqi government of not complying with the Vienna Convention, which governs relations between countries, by failing in its duty to protect the diplomatic delegation and its facilities.

"The Iraqi authorities have an unequivocal obligation to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic personnel. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities have failed to fulfill this obligation," states the communiqué signed by Tobias Billström, the Swedish Foreign Minister. "The government is in communication with high-level Iraqi representatives to express its dismay," he added.

It was learned Thursday that Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani asked the foreign minister to order the return of the chargé d'affaires in Stockholm and the departure of the Swedish ambassador from Baghdad. It is understood by this decision, that following talks between the two governments, Sweden refuses to repress demonstrations in which the Koran is burned and thus obeys its Constitutional Court rules.