SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

Iraqi protesters storm Swedish embassy in Baghdad following Quran burning incident

On Thursday, a large number of supporters of Muqtada Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric and political figure, forcefully entered the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad as a form of protest against the recent burning of a Quran in Sweden.
As per an AP report citing an Iraqi security official, the protesters breached the embassy building, prompting its evacuation by security forces.

They reportedly raised pictures of Sadr and flags of his militia, the Mahdi Army, while some also burned rainbow flags, symbolising LGBTQ+ pride. Iraq has not yet made any public comments about the embassy storming.
The protest took place after on Wednesday, a man in Sweden, who identified himself as an Iraqi refugee, burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm.

According to the Iraqi security official, the man was an Iraqi Christian and a former member of a Christian unit within the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a collection of predominantly Shiite militias incorporated into Iraq’s armed forces in 2016.
The act of burning the Quran during the Eid ul-Adha holiday drew condemnation from the Muslim world. On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the incident could hinder Sweden’s bid for NATO membership.
Following the incident, Muqtada Sadr took to Twitter, calling on his followers to protest at the Swedish Embassy and demand the expulsion of Sweden’s ambassador to Iraq. He asked his followers to keep burning the LGBT flag until the eighth day of the lunar month of Muharram because “it is what irritates them the most”.

The Swedish police authorised the protest on the grounds of freedom of speech. Previously, a similar protest was banned by the police. However, the ban was overturned by a court.
Sadr reportedly also urged the prosecution in absentia of the man who burned the Quran and also for the revocation of his nationality. He has called for another protest to be held in front of the embassy on Friday.

In a statement, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that it had summoned the Swedish ambassador and called on Sweden’s government “to take the necessary measures to stop the repeated insults to the Holy Quran”. They also requested the extradition of the man responsible for burning the Quran to face prosecution in Iraq, stating that freedom of expression does not justify offence to religious sanctities. “Legal justifications and freedom of expression do not justify allowing offence to religious sanctities,” said the statement.

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