Iraq severs diplomatic ties with Sweden over anti-Quran demonstration as protesters storm Baghdad embassy

Images show protesters scaling walls of Swedish Embassy in Iraq

Iraq has severed diplomatic ties with Sweden Thursday after a planned anti-Quran demonstration unfolded in Stockholm, during which an individual stepped on and kicked the Islamic holy book and Iraqi flag.

The move came after images emerged of protesters storming the Swedish embassy in Baghdad for the second time in less than a month, lighting a small fire and sending plumes of smoke into the air. 

The demonstrator in the Swedish capital Thursday – identified in Swedish media as Salwan Momika, an Iraqi of Christian origin who lives in Sweden as a self-identified atheist – had threatened to burn a copy of the Quran, according to The Associated Press. But he did not do so.

Last month, a man identified by local media and on his social media as Momika burned a Quran outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, triggering widespread condemnation in the Islamic world.


iraq severs diplomatic ties with sweden over anti quran demonstration as protesters storm baghdad embassy

Protesters scale a wall at the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday, July 20. (AP/Ali Jabar)

Following Thursday's demonstration, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani announced the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador from Iraq and the withdrawal of the Iraqi charge d’affaires from Sweden.

He previously convened a meeting with security officials and said in a statement after that Iraqi authorities will prosecute those responsible for the arson at the Swedish embassy in Baghdad as well as referring "negligent security officials" for investigation. 

But the statement earlier also said his government has "informed the Swedish government... that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil would necessitate severing diplomatic relations," according to Reuters. 

The head of Iraq's Media and Communications Commission has also announced that the agency had suspended the license of Swedish communications company Ericsson to operate in Iraq and the Ministry of Communications later said it would sever all its dealings with Swedish companies, the Associated Press also reported.

iraq severs diplomatic ties with sweden over anti quran demonstration as protesters storm baghdad embassy

Smoke rises from the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad on Thursday, July 20. (AP Photo)

Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. is offering its support to Sweden in the wake of the embassy storming.

"The United States strongly condemns the attack on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad in the early hours of July 20. Freedom of peaceful assembly is an essential hallmark of democracy, but what occurred last night was an unlawful act of violence," he said. "It is unacceptable that Iraqi Security Forces did not act to prevent protesters from breaching the Swedish Embassy compound for a second time and damaging it."

Online videos showed demonstrators at the diplomatic post waving flags and signs showing the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "our embassy staff are in safety" and that it condemns "all attacks on diplomats and staff from international organizations."

iraq severs diplomatic ties with sweden over anti quran demonstration as protesters storm baghdad embassy

Salwan Momika appears outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday, July 20, where he plans to burn a copy of the Quran and the Iraqi flag.  (Oscar Olsson/TT via AP)


"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," the statement added. 

Finland’s ambassador to Iraq, Matti Lassila, told Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the staff of the Finnish and Swedish embassies were evacuated Wednesday, The Associated Press also reported. 

"As a result of demonstrations at the Swedish Embassy on Thursday 29 June, Friday 30 June and Thursday 20 July, the Embassy is closed to visitors until further notice," the Swedish Embassy in Iraq said on its website. "It is not possible to call the Embassy, and the Embassy is not able to issue passports – this includes provisional passports." 

In late June, the AP reported that hundreds of followers of al-Sadr stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad after a Quran was burned outside a mosque in central Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. 

Fox News' Lawrence Richard and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Greg Norman is a reporter at Fox News Digital.

Authored by Greg Norman via FoxNews July 20th 2023