Salwan Momika protests outside a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, 2023, during the holiday of Eid al-Adha. Momika, 37, who fled Iraq for Sweden several years ago, got permission from Swedish police to burn the Muslim holy book during the demonstration. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP)

(CNN) -- Protesters tried to enter the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, on Thursday after the burning of the Koran in Sweden, videos show.

The protests were ordered by powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who also called for the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad.

Videos circulating on social media show some protesters in Iraq climbing a wall barricaded outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.

It is unclear how far the protesters went, but videos posted on social media show people waving flags and images of Muqtada al-Sadr surrounding what appears to be the embassy's exterior entrance.

CNN reached out to the Swedish embassy for comment.

advertising

  • Sweden approves protest in which the Koran will be burned in front of a mosque

Al-Sadr, who called for the protest, demanded that authorities withdraw the Iraqi nationality of Salwan Momika, the organizer of Sweden's Quran desecration protest, who emigrated to Sweden five years ago from Iraq and has Swedish citizenship.

"If freedom of expression is guaranteed in Iraq and in the world, then believers have to express their opinion on the burning of the holy books... through massive and angry protests against the Swedish embassy in Iraq," al-Sadr said.

In early January this year, Iraqi protesters clashed with security forces outside the Swedish embassy over another Quran-burning incident in Stockholm.

The events come a day after the Swedish government enabled a protest to burn the Koran in front of a mosque in central Stockholm. The burning of the holy book coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, one of the most significant in the Islamic calendar.

Salwan Momika protests outside a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, 2023. (Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

A single person took part in the planned burning of the Koran in the Swedish capital and images of the event show he was the only person apart from his translator at the demonstration, which coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha.

The decision to allow the protest was made in accordance with the right to freedom of expression, Swedish police said, adding that the demonstration did not pose an immediate security risk.

  • ANALYSIS | NATO officials are in a race against time to admit Sweden

Turkey on Wednesday condemned the decision to approve the demonstration outside a Stockholm mosque.

Turkey's foreign minister condemned the protest on Wednesday, calling it an "heinous act."

"It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression. To turn a blind eye to such heinous acts is to be complicit in them," Hakan Fidan said in a statement.

The Turkish government's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, added in a tweet: "We are fed up with allowing Islamophobia and the continuous cases of hatred of our religion by the European authorities, especially in Sweden."

The decision to allow such an incendiary protest may threaten Sweden's chances of joining NATO, over Turkey's objections.

"Those who seek to become our allies in NATO cannot tolerate or allow destructive behavior by Islamophobic and xenophobic terrorists."

NATO officials are in a race against time to avoid the embarrassment of seeing the alliance fail to meet its own stated goal of admitting Sweden into the alliance by July 11, the date of its next official summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. Officials fear that missing this deadline will send a humiliating and potentially dangerous message to the alliance's adversaries.

"Freedom of expression weighs more," police said

Protester Salwan Momika, who spoke by phone to CNN early Wednesday, said he arrived in Sweden five years ago from Iraq and has Swedish nationality. He told CNN he identifies as an atheist.

Momika claimed he made this demonstration after three months of legal battles in the courts.

Salwan Momika protests in front of a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, 2023. (Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

"This book should be banned worldwide because of the danger it poses to democracy, ethics, human values, human rights and women's rights. It just doesn't work in these times," he said.

A police permit obtained by CNN states that "the security risks and consequences related to the burning of a Quran are not of such a nature that, under current law, they can be the basis of a decision to refuse a request for a general assembly."

The permit for the demonstration says the burning of Korans "poses an increased risk of terrorist attack" and "may also have consequences for foreign policy."

However, it added that for "security concerns to underlie a decision to deny a general assembly, they must have a clear connection to the planned assembly or its immediate environment."

Authorities granted permission for the assembly under certain conditions, including a fire ban in place in Stockholm since June 12, which "applies until further notice."

Speaking by phone to CNN, Stockholm police spokeswoman Helena Bostrom Thomas said police had informed the applicant to become aware of those restrictions, but added that "freedom of expression outweighs whether it acts against the restrictions of the fire ban."

-- CNN's Luke McGee, Alex Hardie, Duarte Mendonca and Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou contributed to the briefing.

Koran