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21 Jul, 2023 04:17

Western diplomat expelled over Quran desecration

Stockholm’s embassy in Baghdad was also stormed by protesters this week
Western diplomat expelled over Quran desecration

The Iraqi government has expelled the Swedish ambassador and ordered its own envoy to return home, in a show of outrage at Stockholm’s decision to permit a protest outside Iraq’s diplomatic mission, during which activists were seen stepping on and kicking a copy of the Quran.

The office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani announced the decision on Thursday afternoon, saying it was prompted by Sweden’s “repeated permission for the burning of the Holy Quran,” as well as “insulting Islamic sanctities and the burning of the Iraqi flag.”

Al-Sudani directed the Foreign Ministry to “withdraw the Iraqi Chargé d'Affairs from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Stockholm,” and also “instructed the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad to leave Iraqi territory,” government spokesman Basim Alawadi said in a statement.

The expulsion comes amid a diplomatic row that erupted after Swedish police allowed an Iraqi national to torch a copy of the Islamic holy book in Stockholm last month, and granted a permit for a similar stunt at a gathering outside the Iraqi Embassy.

While a small protest did take place at the embassy on Thursday, demonstrators stopped short of burning the Quran – but were seen stepping on it instead, according to the Associated Press. An Iraqi flag and photos of influential Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were also thrown on the ground and kicked.

Earlier this week, Iraqis angered over the planned Quran-burning marched on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, breaching the building and setting it on fire. Though no diplomatic staff were harmed during the incident, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom criticized the Iraqi government for failing to protect the facility.

Iraqi officials later condemned those who stormed the Swedish Embassy and vowed to guard the building, but stressed that “any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations.”

Soon after the protest in Stockholm on Thursday, Baghdad’s Media and Communications Commission said it had suspended the operating license for Ericsson, a major Swedish telecom company, and vowed to cut ties with other Swedish businesses.