Quran desecration: Police disperse hundreds of protesters in Iraq

Iraqi security forces dispersed hundreds of supporters of Muqtada Sadr in Baghdad early Saturday as they tried to join the ultra-secure Green Zone, including embassies, amid fresh mobilization in protests against the sacrilege of the Quran amid diplomatic tensions.

The nightly demonstration was inspired by press reports that appear to point to desecration of the Quran in Denmark. On its Facebook page, the far-right Danske Patriot movement posted a video on Friday of a man burning what appears to be a Quran and stepping on an Iraqi flag.

Contacted by AFP on Saturday, Copenhagen police deputy chief inspector Trine Fisker confirmed “a very small demonstration in front of the Iraqi embassy yesterday: I can also confirm that a book was burnt, we don’t know which book it was”.

For days, fiery religious leader Muqtada Sadr has been stoking fires, embarrassing Iraqi officials against a backdrop of serious regional diplomatic tensions.

Following two authorized public events in Stockholm, during which an Iraqi refugee desecrated the Quran, the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was torched by Sadrist protesters on Thursday, the Iraqi government announced the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador, and regional condemnation followed.

Several hundred protesters gathered on Tahrir Square in the center of the Iraqi capital just after 1:00 am (22:00 GMT) on Saturday morning, this time reacting to the Copenhagen incident, most of them young people chanting “yes, yes to the Quran” and some of them waving portraits of influential religious leader Muqtada Sadr, according to an AFP photographer.

A Shiite Muslim holds up a Quran during a demonstration in Nasiriya, a city in southern Iraq, July 22, 2023 (AFP – Assad Niazi)

Security forces had cut two bridges leading to the Green Zone, a secure neighborhood home to government institutions and embassies, but protesters numbering about a thousand tried to force their way through and clashes broke out when they were repelled and finally dispersed before dawn, an interior ministry official confirmed to AFP on condition of anonymity.

According to him, the protesters were trying to rally at the Danish embassy.

– chain reactions –

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned “the desecration of the Holy Quran and the Iraqi flag in front of the Iraqi embassy in Denmark”, saying in a statement that these “heinous facts cannot be part of the context of freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration”.

“These actions provoke reactions and put all parties in a delicate situation,” he warned.

However, the ministry reaffirms “its full commitment to the Vienna Convention”, ensuring that “the Iraqi government guarantees the safety and security provided to diplomatic teams”.

Supporters of Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrate against the desecration of the Quran near the Green Zone in Baghdad on the morning of July 22, 2023 (AFP - Murtaza Latif)
Supporters of Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrate against the desecration of the Quran near the Green Zone in Baghdad on the morning of July 22, 2023 (AFP – Murtaza Latif)

“What happened with the Swedish embassy, ​​we cannot allow it to happen again,” he said.

Iran also condemned the incident in Copenhagen.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement, “From the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Danish government is responsible when it comes to preventing insults to the Holy Quran and everything sacred in Islam, and should take legal action to punish those who insult.”

The events in Sweden have already sparked a wave of condemnation, with protests taking place in Iraq, Tehran and Lebanon on Friday.

The UAE called on the Swedish charge d’affaires on Friday to “strongly condemn the repeated permissions granted by the Swedish government” to gatherings during which the Quran was desecrated, according to a press release from Emirati diplomacy.

As Tehran ruled on Friday that no Swedish ambassador would be accepted in Iran until Sweden took “concrete measures” to prevent any desecration of the Koran on its territory.

Swedish police said that they allowed such events in the name of freedom of assembly, that does not mean they approved.

Add a Comment