A demonstration in Stockholm against Turkey’s attempt to join NATO and the burning of a Koran copy, aimed at provoking tensions between Turkey, Sweden, and Turkey, just as Turkey needs Ankara to allow it to enter the military alliance.
We condemn the atrocious attack on the holy text of Islam in the strongest terms. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that it was completely unacceptable to allow this anti-Islamic act which insults Muslims and targets our sacred values under the pretense of freedom of expression.
The statement was made after an anti-immigrant politician of the fringe burnt a Koran copy near the Turkish Embassy. Turkey’s ministry called on Sweden to prosecute the culprits. It also invited other countries to join in fighting Islamophobia.
In the same city, a separate demonstration was held in support of Kurds as well as against Sweden’s attempt to join NATO. Outside the Embassy, a group of pro-Turkish protestors also held a rally. Police granted permits for all three events.
Tobias Billstrom, the Swedish Foreign Minister, stated that Islamophobic provocations were unacceptable.
Billstrom tweeted that “Sweden enjoys wide-ranging freedom of expression. However, it doesn’t imply the Swedish government, nor myself, endorse the views expressed.”
Rasmus Paludan of the far-right Danish political party Hard Line was responsible for the Koran burning. Paludan also holds Swedish citizenship and has been involved in several demonstrations where the Koran was burned.
Paludan was unable to reach him by email immediately for comment. According to the police permit, Paludan protested against Islam and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to limit freedom of speech in Sweden.
Many Arab countries, including Kuwait and Jordan, condemned Koran-burning. Saudi Arabia has issued a statement saying that it supports dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence and condemns hate and extremism.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland both applied to NATO. However, all thirty member countries must agree on their applications. Turkey said that Sweden must take a stronger stance against terrorists. This includes Kurdish militants. It also blames them for the 2016 coup attempt.
Speakers stood before a large banner that read “We Are All PKK” and spoke to several hundred supporters of the Kurdish Workers Party.
Thomas Pettersson (a spokesperson for Alliance Against NATO, and also one of the organizers of the protest) said that “we will continue to our opposition against the Swedish NATO application.”
According to police, the atmosphere was peaceful at each of these demonstrations.
As a response to the burning Koran, around 200 Istanbul protestors set fire to the Swedish flag at the Swedish consulate.
Turkey stated earlier on Saturday that the Swedish defense minister had not taken sufficient measures to curb protests and canceled its planned visit to Ankara.
Jonson stated separately that Akar and he had met Friday at a meeting of Western allies, and decided to delay the scheduled meeting.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated that he discussed with Erdogan how to limit protests in Sweden against Turkey. He also said that Ankara had relayed Ankara’s reaction to Jonson at a meeting by the Ukraine Defence Contact Group.
It is not acceptable to ignore these protests or to take action. According to the statement of the Turkish Defence Ministry, Akar stated that all necessary actions had been taken.
The planned protests were already being discussed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which summoned Sweden’s Ambassador on Friday.
In 2022, Finland and Sweden reached a three-way deal with Turkey that aimed to overcome Ankara’s objections about their NATO membership. While Sweden claims it fulfilled the terms of the memorandum, Turkey demands more. It wants the extradition and release of 130 terrorists.