Iraq Expels Swedish Ambassador and Suspends Ericsson’s Work Permit After Embassy Attack
Baghdad/Stockholm, July 20 – In response to a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm, hundreds of protesters stormed and set alight the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, leading to Iraq’s decision to expel the Swedish ambassador and recall its charge d’affaires in Sweden. Additionally, Iraq suspended the working permit of Sweden’s Ericsson on Iraqi soil, according to Iraq’s state news agency.
The planned burning of the Koran was organized by anti-Islam protesters, including an Iraqi immigrant to Sweden who had previously burned the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque in June. The protesters had received permission from Swedish police to burn the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy. However, instead of setting it on fire, they kicked and partially destroyed a book they claimed was the Koran before leaving the area.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed relief that embassy staff were safe but criticized Iraqi authorities for failing to protect the embassy. The Iraqi government condemned the burning of the Swedish embassy and declared it a security breach, vowing to protect diplomatic missions. However, they also warned the Swedish government that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Koran on Swedish soil would lead to severing diplomatic relations.
The storming of the embassy was strongly condemned by the State Department in Washington, which also criticized Iraq’s security forces for not preventing the protesters from breaching the diplomatic post. The European Union also condemned the attack and called for swift adoption of necessary security measures by Iraq to prevent further incidents.
The demonstration in Stockholm was organized by supporters of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who called for protests against the second planned Koran burning in Sweden in weeks. Sadr, one of Iraq’s most powerful figures, stood by the embassy storming and criticized the U.S. for condemning the burning of the Swedish embassy instead of condemning the burning of the Koran.
Videos posted on the Telegram group, One Baghdad, showed protesters gathering around the Swedish embassy and storming the complex, chanting pro-Sadr slogans. Smoke was later seen rising from a building in the embassy complex, and protesters were seen standing on its roof. Security forces deployed inside the embassy by dawn, and firefighters extinguished stubborn embers.
Sweden has witnessed several Koran burnings in recent years, mostly carried out by far-right and anti-Muslim activists. Some of these burnings have led to clashes between police and Muslim protesters. The burnings have caused outrage in the Muslim world, and Swedish security services have expressed concerns about the country’s safety.
While the police rejected some applications for protests involving Koran burning due to security concerns, courts have overturned those decisions, citing Sweden’s freedom of speech laws. The government is now considering legal changes that would allow police to intervene in public burnings if they pose a threat to Sweden’s security.
The burnings have also complicated Sweden’s bid to join NATO. Although Turkey has announced its intention to ratify Sweden’s application, previous burnings have angered Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has criticized the burnings, stating that while they are legal, they are inappropriate.
Reporting by Timour Azhari, Anna Ringstrom, and Supantha Mukherjee; Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander and Marie Mannes in Stockholm, Louise Breusch Rasmussen in Copenhagen, and Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Writing by Timour Azhari and Johan Ahlander; Editing by Tom Hogue/Tom Perry, Lincoln Feast, Bernadette Baum, William Maclean
What were the consequences faced by the Swedish ambassador and Ericsson following the attack on the Swedish embassy in Baghdad?
The Swedish ambassador has been expelled from Iraq and Ericsson’s work permit has been suspended after the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was attacked by protesters. The cause of the attack was a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm, which angered anti-Islam protesters. The protesters received permission to burn the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy, but instead, they damaged a book they claimed was the Koran. The Iraqi government has condemned the attack and declared it a security breach, promising to protect diplomatic missions. However, they have warned Sweden that any future incidents involving the burning of the Koran on Swedish soil will result in severed diplomatic relations. The US State Department and the European Union have both condemned the attack and called for increased security measures in Iraq to prevent further incidents. The demonstration in Stockholm was organized by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq, who criticized the US for condemning the burning.