An Iraqi elderly man holds a copy of the Quran as he protests. (Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)


Swedish Embassy in Baghdad stormed and set on fire


Hundreds of Iraqis stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad on July 20, enraged by the Quran burnings that have taken place in the Scandinavian country. The Swedish government says such events could affect its foreign aid policies

Early in the morning, an angry mob demonstrated at the embassy. Things get out of hand fast and they attacked the building and set it on fire, causing thick, dark smoke to billow across the area.

Video on social media show protestors scaling security fences, breaking down doors and entering the building. As the fire rages, demonstrators can be seen dancing and singing in the surrounding streets.

The prime minister of Iraq has told the Swedish government that further burnings of the Quran will lead to a severing of Iraq’s diplomatic ties with Sweden. Swedish sources told Brussels Signal that “the Iraqi government should be aware that there is an ongoing review by the governing parties in Sweden on how to reform foreign aid policy, and that these types of actions could affect the outcome.”

The rioters are supporters of the Shiite religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr, with some bringing his picture to the protests and holding it in the air while chanting.

The Swedish foreign affairs ministry said no one at the embassy was injured. Sweden has summoned the Iraqi chargé d’affaires, their most senior diplomat in Sweden, to the foreign office. The Swedish foreign office has noted that the Iraqi authorities have failed in their duty under the Vienna convention to protect embassies and diplomatic personnel.

The Iraqi Government was forced to send in security forces to quell the riots. They deployed water cannons and used batons to drive the mob away. Protesters responded by throwing stones.

The Iraqi foreign ministry condemned “in the harshest terms” the attack on the embassy, calling on the security forces to open an “urgent investigation”, according to a press release. The individuals involved must be identified and “held accountable under the law”, it added.

Sweden, where torching copies of the holy book is allowed under freedom-of-speech legislation, has seen a number of Quran burnings. Many Muslims are deeply offended by such incidents.

Aron Emilsson (Sweden Democrats), Chairman of the Swedish Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, said “I strongly condemn the attack. This puts life and health at risk and this case constitutes an attack on Sweden and our representation abroad. Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious crime and, in this case, the Iraqi authorities bear the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and personnel. I expect strong action from the Iraqi authorities because of the scale of the attack. That is the least we can demand.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council has approved a Pakistan-led resolution “against religious hatred”, targeting Sweden. Some weeks ago, there was another protest in Baghdad, when protesters entered the Swedish Embassy grounds without damaging the buildings.

In the afternoon of June 20, Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador over planned Quran burning as it threatens to sever diplomatic ties with Sweden if Quran burnings continue.