Protests in Stockholm, including Koran-burning, draw condemnation from Turkey

Stockholm, January 21 (Reuters) – Protests against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO in Stockholm on Saturday, including the burning of a copy of the Koran, sharply increased tensions with Turkey at a time when the North needs Ankara’s support to join. to a military alliance.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the disgusting attack on our holy book… It is completely unacceptable to allow this anti-Islamic act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of speech,” the Turkish foreign ministry said. said

His statement came after an anti-immigrant far-right politician burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy. The Turkish ministry called on Sweden to take necessary steps against the perpetrators and urged all countries to take concrete steps against Islamophobia.

A separate protest in the city was held in support of the Kurds and against Sweden’s bid to join NATO. A group of pro-Turkish demonstrators also held a rally outside the embassy. All three events had police permits.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said the Islamophobic provocations were appalling.

“Sweden has extensive freedom of expression, but that does not mean that the Swedish government or I agree with the opinion expressed,” Billstrom wrote on Twitter.

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Rasmus Paludan, the leader of Denmark’s far-right political party “Hard Line”, carried out the burning of the Koran. Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has held numerous demonstrations in the past where he burned the Koran.

Paludanus could not immediately be reached by email. email for comment. The permit he received from the police said his protest was against Islam and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to influence freedom of expression in Sweden.

Some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait, have condemned the burning of the Koran. “Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values ​​of dialogue, tolerance and coexistence and rejects hatred and extremism,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has said Sweden must first take a clearer stance against terrorists, mainly Kurdish fighters and a group it blames for the 2016 attacks. coup.

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During the demonstration to protest Sweden’s bid for NATO and express support for the Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner reading “We are all PKK,” a reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned in Turkey, Sweden and the United States. among other countries, and addressed several hundred pro-Kurds and leftists.

“We will continue to oppose Sweden’s NATO application,” Thomas Pettersson, a spokesman for the anti-NATO alliance and one of the organizers of the demonstration, told Reuters.

Police said the situation was peaceful during all three demonstrations.

In Istanbul, a group of about 200 people set fire to the Swedish flag in front of the Swedish consulate in response to the Koran burning.


Earlier on Saturday, Turkey said it had canceled a planned visit by Sweden’s defense minister to Ankara due to a lack of measures to curb the protests.

Jonson said separately that he and Akar met on Friday at a gathering of Western allies in Germany and decided to postpone the planned meeting.

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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he discussed with RT Erdogan that there are no measures to limit the protests in Sweden against Turkey, and relayed Ankara’s reaction to Jonson on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukrainian defense contact group.

“It is unacceptable not to take steps or react to these (protests). Necessary things had to be done, measures had to be taken,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry had already summoned the Swedish ambassador on Friday regarding the planned protests.

Finland and Sweden signed a tripartite agreement with Turkey in 2022 that aims to overcome Ankara’s objections to their NATO membership. Sweden says it has fulfilled its part of the memorandum, but Turkey is demanding more, including the extradition of 130 people it considers terrorists.

Reporting by Omer Berberoglu, Ezgi Erkoyun and Bulent Usta in Istanbul and Niklas Pollard and Simon Johnson in Stockholm Additional reporting by Moaz Abd-Alaziz in Cairo Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun and Niklas Pollard Editing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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