March 5, 2024

Protesters Storm Zone Baghdad’s Green Zone After Burning Denmark’s Qur’an

BAGHDAD (AP) – Hundreds of protesters tried to storm Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and the seat of the Iraqi government, early Saturday after reports of a Quran being burned by an ultranationalist group in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen.

They were pushed back by security forces, who blocked the Jumhuriya bridge leading to the Green Zone, preventing them from reaching the Danish Embassy.

The protest came two days after people angry at the planned burning of the Islamic holy book in Sweden stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad. Protesters occupied the diplomatic post for several hours, waving flags and signs depicting the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, and set a small fire. The Embassy staff was evacuated a day earlier.

Hours later, Iraq’s prime minister cut diplomatic ties with Sweden in protest against the desecration of the Quran.

An Iraqi asylum seeker who burned a copy of the Quran during a demonstration in Stockholm last month had threatened to do the same thing again on Thursday but stopped short of setting the book on fire. He did, however, kick and step on it, as did the Iraqi flag and a photo of Sadr and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A protester gathers in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, carrying Iraqi flags and images of Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr, Saturday, July 22, 2023, following reports of the burning of a Quran by an ultranationalist group in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen. (AP Photo/Ali Jabar)

On Friday evening, thousands protested peacefully in Iraq and other Muslim-majority countries.

Also on Friday, according to Danish media reports, members of the ultranationalist group Danske Patriter burned a copy of the Quran and the Iraqi flag in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen and streamed the action live on Facebook.

The incident sparked protests in Baghdad overnight. Chanting in support of Sadr and carrying images of the prominent leader and his movement’s flag, along with the Iraqi flag, hundreds of protesters tried to enter the Green Zone and clashed with security forces before being dispersed.

In a statement on Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “in strong and repeated terms, the incident of abuse against the Holy Quran and the flag of the Republic of Iraq in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Denmark.”

He called on the international community to “stand urgently and responsibly towards these atrocities that violate social peace and coexistence throughout the world.” read the statement.

Another protest is scheduled to take place in Baghdad at 6 pm.

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