Protests Emerge at Swedish Embassy in Iraq

July 20, 2023
City street in Baghdad, Iraq

It is clear that Iraqi authorities seriously failed in this responsibility.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström after protesters broke into the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq on Thursday, setting fire to part of the building.

Background: In Sweden, police approved an application "For a demonstration outside the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm on Thursday, which according to Swedish media involved two protestors burning a Quran and the Iraqi flag," The Wall Street Journal reports. Swedish government has condemned Quran burnings, but has upheld the ability to carry the action out as a means of freedom of expression. Ahead of the burning, the Iraqi Prime Minister said Iraq would cut diplomatic ties with the European country if they allowed for the burning of religious text, stating that it went against international norms regarding respect for religion.

Why It Matters: Angered by the expected burning of the Quran in Sweden, protesters stormed the Swedish Embassy in Iraq's capital city early Thursday morning (approx. 2 a.m.), scaling the walls and setting fire to some of the building. Ahead of the protests at the Swedish embassy in Iraq, staff were evacuated and remained safe. The protesters vacated the embassy with the arrival of security forces after dawn, but continued to demonstrate outside the building. On Thursday in Sweden, two men gathered in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm; one of them stepped on the Quran and kicked it, but did not set it on fire. Following this event, "Iraq's prime minister cut diplomatic ties with Sweden …" (The Associated Press).

  • The Swedish Foreign Ministry: We condemn all attacks on diplomats and staff from international organizations. Attacks on embassies and diplomats constitute a serious violation of the Vienna Convention. Iraqi authorities have the responsibility to protect diplomatic missions and diplomatic staff.”
  • Prior to the expected burning of the Quran in Sweden Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani said, "Such actions are deemed a threat to peace and encourage a culture of violence and hatred." In the wake of the protests at the Swedish Embassy in Iraq, Sudani said Iraqi authorities would prosecute those responsible for damaging the embassy.

Something to Consider: It was the second attack on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad within the past month, as protestors also took to the embassy following the burning of a Quran outside of a mosque in Stockholm in June.

Iraq orders the expulsion of Sweden's ambassador as a man desecrated the Quran in Stockholm

Swedish Embassy in Iraq Set on Fire in Protest Against Planned Quran Burning

by Jenna Lee,