Opinion

Putin, Raisi and Erdogan have less in common than it appears

Putin, Raisi and Erdogan have less in common than it appears

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Tuesday’s three-way summit in Tehran, the first to bring the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran together since 2019, put many common issues on the table, but with a diverse agenda. So diverse, in fact, that the chances of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ebrahim Raisi agreeing on everything, when the three are facing unique challenges, were remote at best.
The Tehran meeting came a few days after US President Joe Biden participated in an extraordinary high-level meeting in Jeddah, hosted by Saudi Arabia and attended by the GCC leaders plus the heads of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. The outcome of the Jeddah summit was in contrast with the bilateral US-Israel declaration signed only two days before while Biden was visiting Israel.
While the main component of the so-called Jerusalem Declaration was a vow not to allow Iran to militarize its nuclear program, the message from Jeddah was articulated in a way that keeps the door open for an Arab reconciliation with Iran. There was no mention of an anti-Iran Middle Eastern version of NATO, with Israel as a member.
The Iranian leadership will appreciate the value of the messages coming from Jeddah. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that Riyadh continues to extend its hand to Tehran. The UAE announced that it is considering sending an ambassador to Iran, which Tehran has also welcomed.
But the leaders’ meeting in Tehran had other issues to consider. Putin wants to sign with Iran a comprehensive strategic treaty, whose main objective is to lessen the effect of Western sanctions on Moscow and create an anti-American alliance. Tehran can go as far as siding with Putin, but not at the expense of losing an opportunity, feeble as it may be, to end Western oil sanctions.

Tehran can go as far as siding with Putin, but not at the expense of losing an opportunity to end Western oil sanctions.

Osama Al-Sharif

For Iran — where a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Kamal Kharrazi, announced this week that Tehran had the capability to build a nuclear bomb but it chooses not to — an 11th-hour deal to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement remains possible. An anti-Western alliance with Moscow at this stage would not help conclude a deal that Tehran badly wants.
For Putin, any semblance of support from states with an axe to grind with America is a good thing. But there are limits to such support. For Tehran, normalizing ties with Riyadh would carry huge geopolitical value. Such rapprochement could end many of the region’s conflicts. At the end of the day, Iran is aware of its geographical destiny as a neighbor of the Arab Gulf states.
For Erdogan, a pragmatic leader who has no qualms about shifting sides and switching positions, cementing his presence and influence over two anti-US countries is enough to keep Turkey a major geopolitical player regionally and beyond. He has been threatening to launch a major military operation in northern Syria for weeks. But Moscow and Tehran have different takes on such an operation. Why Ankara wants to engage in a risky military adventure in northern Syria is difficult to fathom.
Iran has stated that it opposes any operation that threatens the territorial integrity of Syria. Moscow is also not happy with Turkey’s meddling in Syria, which it sees as an extension of its own geopolitical influence in the region. The fact that Moscow is caught up in the Ukrainian quagmire makes it apprehensive about any serious shift in the balance of power in Syria.
Topping all this is the fact that Israel, in the wake of Biden’s visit, has made direct threats toward Tehran. On Monday, Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi said that the military is preparing for the possibility it will have to act against Iran’s nuclear program. Israel and Iran have been engaged in an indirect war for years. But the fact that Israel is considering an attack on Iran does not please anybody. The US, the Europeans and the Arab countries are in no mood to see another unpredictable war break out in the region. Certainly, when it comes to potentially igniting another war in the region, Israel is in a minority of one.
While the Tehran summit offered much in terms of a photo opportunity, a platform for some fiery statements and a semblance of an accord, the reality is that the three leaders have less in common than it appears. Their personal agendas are not in synergy and, while joint challenges may bring them together for now, dealing with them leaves much to be desired.

Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Erdogan presses case against Syria’s Kurds at Tehran summit despite Khamenei rebuke

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meet in Tehran on July 19, 2022. (WANA handout via REUTERS)
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Updated 20 July 2022

Erdogan presses case against Syria’s Kurds at Tehran summit despite Khamenei rebuke

  • The summit was ostensibly aimed at ending more than 11 years of conflict in Syria
  • Turkey is also deeply opposed to a semiautonomous Kurdish administration in Syria’s northeast

TEHRAN: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed his case for a military offensive against Syria’s Kurds at a summit in Tehran Tuesday, despite Iran’s supreme leader warning against such a move.

Erdogan told the leaders of Russia and Iran that he expected their full support in Ankara’s fight against “terrorists” in Syria.

The summit, hosted by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and also attended by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, was ostensibly aimed at ending more than 11 years of conflict in Syria, where Iran and Russia support the Damascus government and Turkey supports rebel forces against the regime.

But Turkey is also deeply opposed to a semiautonomous Kurdish administration in Syria’s oil-rich northeast, and Erdogan has lately repeatedly vowed to launch an offensive against Kurdish militants, on the back of a 2019 onslaught.

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Both Russia and Iran have a military presence in parts of Syria mentioned as possible targets of Turkey’s new assault.

A statement by the three presidents “expressed their opposition to the illegal seizure and transfer of oil revenues that should belong to Syria,” while they also “rejected all attempts to create new realities on the ground... including illegitimate self-rule initiatives” in the war-torn country.

The trilateral statement came shortly after Erdogan had urged Russia and Iran to back his efforts to combat terrorism in Syria, contending that “it should be understood clearly that there is no room in our region’s future for separatist terror organizations.”

“We will continue our fight against terrorist organizations in the time to come,” he said.




Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presses his case at the Tehran summit. (WANA handout via REUTERS)

Erdogan accuses outlawed Kurdish militants of using the border region as a staging post for their decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

“What we expect from Russia and Iran is their support for Turkey in its fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

Erdogan noted that Turkey had struck an agreement with Moscow and Washington in 2019 under which both countries were supposed to help push outlawed Kurdish militants 30 km away from the Syria-Turkey border.

“This still has not happened,” said Erdogan. “It is a long overdue.”

Washington and Moscow have also urged Turkey to exercise restraint.

Erdogan had earlier Tuesday earned a rebuke for his push for an offensive against Syria’s Kurds from Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in a bilateral meeting ahead of the summit.

Khamenei told Erdogan such an offensive would be “detrimental” for the region and called for the issue to be resolved through dialogue between Ankara, Damascus, Moscow and Tehran.




A Turkey-backed fighter looks out from a military position in the Syrian area of Jibrin towards the Kurdish-controlled area of Tal Rifaat on July 19, 2022. (Bakr Alkasem / AFP)

It was not immediately clear whether the trilateral statement at the summit reflected any alteration in Iran’s or Russia’s position on Turkey’s threatened offensive.

Khamenei also on Tuesday urged strengthened energy cooperation with Moscow in a meeting with Putin.

Russia’s president traveled abroad for only the second time since ordering Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine in order to attend the gathering.

The summit came days after US President Joe Biden visited the Middle East for the first time in his presidency, with stops in Iran’s regional foes Israel and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, a country his government has pressed to increase oil output to ease a price spike related to the Ukraine war.
Khamenei called for stronger “long-term co-operation” with Moscow, according to a statement on his official website that noted both Moscow and Tehran are afflicted by Western sanctions.
Describing such ties as “deeply beneficial to both countries,” the supreme leader called for bilateral contracts and understandings in hydrocarbons to be “followed up and implemented fully.”
Prior to Putin’s arrival, the National Iranian Oil Company and Russia’s Gazprom signed a memorandum of understanding “worth about $40 billion,” according to the Iranian oil ministry’s official news agency.
Putin and Erdogan also held a bilateral meeting where the Russian president said he wanted to “thank” his Turkish counterpart for progress on talks over Ukraine’s grain, according to the Kremlin.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has massively hampered shipments from one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grain, sparking fears of global food shortages.
Turkey — a NATO member on speaking terms with both Russia and Ukraine — has spearheaded efforts to resume the grain deliveries.
Erdogan has for months been offering to meet Putin in a bid to help resolve heightened global tensions.
“I want to thank you for your mediation efforts,” Putin told Erdogan during the bilateral meeting, according to comments released by the Kremlin.
“We have moved forward,” Putin said, while adding “not all issues have yet been resolved.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Monday that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports threatens supplies to countless thousands vulnerable to starvation.

On Sunday, a day after Biden ended his tour of the Middle East, Iran accused the United States of provoking crises in the region.
Biden had vowed the US would not “tolerate efforts by any country to dominate another in the region through military buildups, incursions, and/or threats,” in reference to Iran.
In a speech at a Saudi summit of Gulf Arab states as well as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, Biden assured those gathered that the US would remain fully engaged in the Middle East.
“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” he said
Following the meeting, a joint statement committed the leaders to “preserve regional security and stability.”
It also underscored diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a goal Tehran has always denied seeking.
On Sunday, Iran accused the US of having “once again resorted to the failed policy of Iran-phobia, trying to create tensions and crises in the region.”
The US last week alleged Iran plans to deliver “hundreds of drones” to Russia to aid its war on Ukraine, an accusation the Islamic republic dismissed as “baseless.”

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Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement

Updated 29 January 2023

Israeli guards kill ‘armed’ Palestinian near West Bank settlement

RAMALLAH: Israeli guards killed a Palestinian near a settlement in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said Sunday, with the Israeli military alleging he was armed.
Karam Ali Ahmad Salman, 18, was shot dead by “the Israeli occupation near the settlement of ‘Kedumim’,” the Palestinian health ministry reported.
Israel’s army said a “civilian security team” shot a person “armed with a handgun” near the settlement in the northern West Bank.
The Palestinian health ministry reported that Kedumim was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and settlements are regarded as illegal under international law, a charge Israel disputes.
Salman is one of at least 32 Palestinians killed in the West Bank this month, including civilians and militants, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
A Palestinian gunman killed seven people Friday outside a synagogue in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
In response to the deadly attack, the Israeli government announced a slew of measures including “steps to strengthen settlements.”
The latest violence follows a surge in killings last year.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to AFP figures.


Sweden tells citizens to avoid crowds in Turkiye after Qur'an burning

Updated 28 January 2023

Sweden tells citizens to avoid crowds in Turkiye after Qur'an burning

  • Last week Turkiye suspended talks with Sweden and Finland on their applications to join NATO
  • "Swedes in Turkiye are asked to stay updated on the development of events and to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations," the foreign ministry said

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s foreign ministry on Saturday warned Swedes in Turkiye to avoid crowds and demonstrations following protests there over the burning of the Qur’an by a far-right politician in Stockholm last week.
Last week Turkiye suspended talks with Sweden and Finland on their applications to join NATO after the protest at which Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burned a copy of the Qur’an outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Paludan’s actions have led to demonstrations in a number of Muslim countries as well as in Turkiye.
“Swedes in Turkiye are asked to stay updated on the development of events and to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations,” the foreign ministry said on its advice page for Swedes abroad.
“Continued demonstrations can be expected outside the embassy in Ankara and the consulate general in Istanbul in the coming days.”
After Paludan’s protest, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he supported freedom of speech.
“But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act,” Kristersson said on Twitter.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
They need support from all 30 members of the Alliance. Turkiye has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt, in order for it to back NATO membership for the two Nordic countries.


New gun attack in east Jerusalem after synagogue mass shooting

Updated 29 January 2023

New gun attack in east Jerusalem after synagogue mass shooting

  • Police said the suspect was “neutralized” following the latest gun attack in the Silwan neighborhood
  • Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency response service identified the victims as two men, aged 47 and 23

JERUSALEM: An assailant shot and wounded two people in east Jerusalem on Saturday, Israeli medics said, hours after a Palestinian gunman killed seven outside a synagogue in one of the deadliest such attacks in years.
Police said the suspect was “neutralized” following the latest gun attack in the Silwan neighborhood, just outside Jerusalem’s old, walled city.
Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency response service identified the victims as two men, aged 47 and 23, both with “gunshot wounds to their upper body.” It did not identify those involved.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israel's response to an attack by a Palestinian gunman attack that killed seven people on the outskirts of Jerusalem will be "strong, swift and precise" .
Netanyahu made the statement as he convened his security cabinet over Friday's attack. 
Police had earlier announced 42 arrests in connection with Friday’s synagogue attack.
The mass shooting unfolded as a 21-year-old resident of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem drove up to the synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood and opened fire during the Jewish Sabbath.
The bloodshed, which unfolded on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marked another dramatic escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It came a day after one of the deadliest army raids in the occupied West Bank in roughly two decades, as well as rocket fire from militants in the Gaza Strip and Israeli retaliatory air strikes.
There have widespread calls to de-escalate the spiralling violence, but tensions are rising.
Crowds shouted “Death to Arabs” as Netanyahu toured the scene of the synagogue attack late Friday.
Palestinians also held spontaneous rallies to celebrate the killings, in Gaza and across the West Bank, including in Ramallah where large crowds swarmed the streets chanting and waving Palestinian flags.
Several Arab nations that have ties with Israel-- including Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — condemned the synagogue shooting.
The Lebanese group Hezbollah, one of Israel’s most prominent foes, praised the attack as “heroic,” voicing “absolute support for all the steps taken by the Palestinian resistance factions.”

The gunman at the synagogue was shot dead by police during a shootout that followed a brief car chase after the attack.
There has been no indication that he had prior involvement in militant activity or was a member of an established Palestinian armed group.
“The Jerusalem District Police and border police fighters arrested 42 suspects — some of them from the terrorist’s (immediate) family, relatives and (neighbors),” a police statement said.
“The police will thoroughly examine the connection between each of the arrested suspects and the terrorist who carried out the attack, as well as the extent of their knowledge and/or involvement,” it added.
In a separate statement, police said the force had been placed on the “highest level” of alert following the attack.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War. Palestinians claim the area as the capital of their future state.
Israel’s police chief Kobi Shabtai called the shooting “one of the worst attacks (Israel) has encountered in recent years.”

Nine people had been killed Thursday in what Israel described as a “counter-terrorism” operation in the Jenin refugee camp.
It was one of the deadliest Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
Israel said Islamic Jihad operatives were the target.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas both vowed to retaliate, later firing several rockets at Israeli territory.
Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses. The military responded with strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
There were no injuries reported on either side, but Gaza’s armed groups vowed further action.
After the synagogue shooting, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the attack proved “the resistance knows how to find the appropriate response” to Israeli “crimes.”
Washington had announced Thursday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he would push for an “end to the cycle of violence.”
A US State Department spokesman confirmed on Friday that the visit would go ahead and said Blinken would discuss “steps to be taken to de-escalate tensions.”
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals

Updated 28 January 2023

Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals

  • Gunman identified as a 21-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who appeared to have acted alone
  • Attack comes amid escalating violence in occupied West Bank, including the shooting of 3 Palestinians by an Israeli land-grabber in Nablus

JERUSALEM: A Palestinian gunman opened fire outside an east Jerusalem synagogue Friday night, killing seven people, including a 70-year-old woman, and wounding three others before he was shot and killed by police, officials said. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in years and raised the likelihood of more bloodshed.
The attack, which occurred as residents were observing the Jewish sabbath, came a day after an Israeli military raid killed nine people in the West Bank. The shooting set off celebrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where people fired guns into the air, honked horns and distributed sweets.
The burst of violence, which also included a rocket barrage from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes, has posed an early challenge for Israel’s new government, which is dominated by ultranationalists who have pushed for a hard line against Palestinian violence. It also cast a cloud over a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region Sunday.
Addressing reporters at Israel’s national police headquarters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had held a security assessment and decided on “immediate actions.” He said he would convene his Security Cabinet on Saturday night, after the end of the sabbath, to discuss a further response.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) visits the site of an attack in a settler neighborhood of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem on Jan. 27, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP) 

Netanyahu declined to elaborate but said Israel would act with “determination and composure.” He called on the public not to take the law into their own hands.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the US strongly condemned the attack and was “shocked and saddened by the loss of life,” noting it came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
US officials said later Friday that President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu to offer US support to the government and people of Israel, calling the shootings “an attack against the civilized world.” “The President stressed the iron-clad US commitment to Israel’s security,” the White House said of the call.
Israeli police said the shootings occurred in Neve Yaakov, a neighborhood with a large ultra-Orthodox population, and that the gunman fled in a car. Police said they chased after him and after an exchange of fire, killed him.
Jerusalem police chief Doron Turjeman confirmed seven deaths, in addition to the shooter, and said three people were wounded.
Police identified the attacker as a 21-year-old east Jerusalem resident who apparently acted alone. Turjeman promised an “aggressive and significant” effort to track down anyone who helped him.
Police also released a photo of the pistol it said was used by the attacker.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant huddled with Israel’s military chief and other top security officials and instructed them to assist police and strengthen defenses near Jerusalem and for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“Israel’s defense establishment will operate decisively and forcefully against terror and will reach anyone involved in the attack,” Gallant said.
Israel’s MADA rescue service said the dead victims were five men and two women, including several who were 60 or older. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital said a 15-year-old boy was recovering from surgery.

The attack was the deadliest on Israelis since a 2008 shooting killed eight people in a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, according to the Foreign Ministry. Given the location and timing, it threatened to trigger a tough response from Israel.
Overnight Thursday, Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, with all of them either intercepted or landing in open areas. Israel responded with airstrikes on targets in Gaza. No casualties were reported, and calm had appeared to be taking hold before Friday night’s shooting.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the ruling Hamas militant group, said the attack was “a revenge and natural response” to the deadly military raid Thursday.
At several locations across the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians gathered in spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate the Jerusalem attack, with some coming out of dessert shops with large trays of sweets to distribute.
In downtown Gaza City, celebratory gunfire could be heard, as cars honked and calls of “God is great!” wafted from mosque loudspeakers. In various West Bank towns, Palestinians launched fireworks.
The attack escalated tensions that were already heightened following Thursday’s raid in the town of Jenin, where nine people, including at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman, were killed. It was the deadliest single raid in the West Bank in two decades. A 10th Palestinian was killed in separate fighting near Jerusalem.
Angry Palestinians marched Friday as they buried the last of those killed a day earlier.
Scuffles between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters erupted after the funeral for a 22-year-old Palestinian north of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, but calm prevailed in the contested capital and in the blockaded Gaza Strip for most of the day.

That suddenly dissolved with the east Jerusalem shooting, described as “horrific and heartbreaking” by Yair Lapid, the opposition leader and former prime minister.
Neve Yaakov is a religious Jewish settlement that Israel considers to be a neighborhood of its capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as a capital of their future state.
Blinken’s trip will probably now focus heavily on lowering tensions. He is likely to discuss the underlying causes of the conflict, the agenda of Israel’s new far-right government and the Palestinian Authority’s decision to halt security coordination with Israel in retaliation for the raid.
The Biden administration has been deeply engaged with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent days, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, underscoring the “urgent need here for all parties to deescalate to prevent the further loss of civilian life and to work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.”
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes since the militant group seized power in Gaza from rival forces in 2007.
Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to leading Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to a count by The Associated Press.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed.
Israel says its raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say they further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of the West Bank, captured along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.


Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

Updated 27 January 2023

Protests against Qur’an burning held across the Middle East

  • The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully
  • Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution

BEIRUT: Protests were held Friday in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully. In Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march toward the Swedish Embassy.
About 12,000 Islamists from the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in Lahore, the capital of the eastern Punjab province to denounce the desecration of the Qur’an in the two European countries. In his speech to the demonstrators, Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP, asked the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands so that such incidents don’t happen again.
Similar rallies were also held in the southern city of Karachi and in the northwest.
Friday’s rallies dispersed peacefully. However, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan in recent years has held violent rallies over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France and elsewhere in the world.
In the Iranian capital of Tehran, hundreds of people marched after Friday prayers during which they burned a Swedish flag.
In Beirut, about 200 angry protesters burned the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs Square.
Earlier this month, Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist from Denmark, received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Qur’an.
Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.
The moves angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests.
On Friday, Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that he would replicate the protest in front of the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Danish ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry where Turkish officials “strongly condemned the permission given to this provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime.”
Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech isn’t allowed. Demonstrators must apply to police for a permit for a public gathering. Police can deny such permits only on exceptional grounds, such as risks to public safety.
Iraq’s powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr asked in comments released Friday whether freedom of speech means offending other people’s beliefs. He asked why “doesn’t the burning of the gays’ rainbow flag represent freedom of expression.”
The cleric added that burning the Qur’an “will bring divine anger.”
Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside a mosque in Baghdad waving copies of the Qur’an.