The Embassy of Sweden in Ankara is closed due to protests against the right-wing provocateur Rasmus Paludan's quran burning.

At the same time, the Swedish government is trying to balance between defending freedom of expression and rejecting the quran burning.

A demonstration outside the Swedish Embassy in Turkey's capital Ankara.
A demonstration outside the Swedish Embassy in Turkey's capital Ankara.

"The burning of books has a very dark history. To point this out is hardly to crawl for Turkey", says Foreign Minister Tobias Billström (M)

Protests have been held in recent days outside Swedish embassies and consulates in Turkey, after Paludan's quran burning outside Turkey's Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday.

The Embassy in Ankara is now closed on Tuesday because new protests are expected.

"The Embassy in Ankara will be closed to the public on Tuesday January 24 on the grounds that demonstrations can be expected outside the embassy," writes the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the website Sweden Abroad.

The embassy was also closed on Monday because of the protests.

Last Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an invitation to Swedes in Turkey to avoid larger crowds and manifestations, and to keep up-to-date on developments.

Abominable can be legal

During a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) and Tobias Billström clarify the Swedish government's position in the situation that arose after the weekend's quran burning in Stockholm.

Billström says that the Swedish government "of course stands up for freedom of expression," but that you must be able to keep two thoughts in mind at the same time:

"We can stand up for freedom of speech and, at the same time, criticize the fact that sacred writings are burned in order to provoke and to divide. The burning of books has a very dark history. To point this out is hardly to crawl for Turkey," he says.

At the same time, Billström emphasizes that many other countries and actors have also made the same criticism.

"Abominable things can be legal."

On a question whether there may be a risk of more demonstrations being organized, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) answers that he is just trying to be the voice of reason.

"At this point, you have to look at Swedish national security interests. I can't control what people do. There are certainly people who want to do everything they can, including distastefulness, to prevent this. It's perfectly legal," says Kristersson.

Calling up ambassador

The quran burning has also led Indonesia – the world's most populous Muslim country – to act and call Sweden's ambassador Marina to file an official complaint.

"Yes (we will meet her) this week," announces the Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah to the AFP, without specifying the date.

The Swedish Embassy confirms that Berg a meeting with an official from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Burning Swedish flag

It was on Saturday that the far right Rasmus Paludan burned a quran near Turkey's Embassy in Stockholm. The event has led to protests in countries such as Iraq and Pakistan. On Monday and even on Tuesday there were protests in Afghanistan.

"Death to the Swedish government," "death to such politicians," chanted a group of about a hundred people gathered in the Afghan eastern city of Khost.

Video footage taken by the news agency AFP shows how several of the demonstrators carry copies of the quran while burning the Swedish flag and condemning Paludan.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Sweden should not expect Turkey to support the Swedish application to NATO. The statement came after the Koran burning which he calls an insult to everyone, not least Muslims.