Tension between Sweden and Turkey is rising as both countries are embroiled in a diplomatic dispute leading to a series of demonstrations and protests. Recently, violence broke out on January 12 in Turkey after Danish activist Rasmus Paludan set the Quran, the holy book of Islam, on fire outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
People in Ankara and Istanbul began protesting against the violent act and criticized Sweden for “state-supported Islamophobia”.
Turkey had called off the visit of the Swedish Defence minister Pal Jonson to Ankara after the Quran-burning incident heightened the tensions between the two countries. Turkey blames the Swedish authorities for not stopping the protest to take place in Stockholm.
A diplomatic rift was initiated after Turkey delayed Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the NATO alliance. Both Scandinavian countries applied to join NATO after Russia annexed Ukraine. Turkey, which is already a NATO member, is using its power to delay the applications due to certain conditions- deporting its President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s critics and holding Kurds, an Iranian ethnic group, as terrorists. The recent demonstrations have reduced the chances of the applications being approved.
Demonstrators in Sweden, expressing their disagreement, hanged the Turkish President’s figure. Paludan, surrounded by police, set fire to the holy book with a lighter after giving a long speech for almost an hour in which he denounced Islam and immigration in Sweden. Around 100 people gathered for a calm counter-protest nearby.
Another protest was held in the city supporting Kurds and against Sweden’s attempts to join NATO. Outside the embassy, a group of pro-Turkish demonstrators organized a rally. All three events had permissions granted by the police.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, on January 21, tweeted that freedom of expression is essential, however, “what is legal is not necessarily appropriate.”
He continued, “Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today.”
President Erdogan did not comment on the incident.