TEHRAN, Mar. 04 (Press Shia Agency) – The American University of Beirut, which hails itself as a sanctuary of free-thinking in the Middle East and claims to provide a platform for freedom of speech has just banned an independent political analyst from participating in a BBC debate that is scheduled to take place on the 8th of March on AUB campus.

This story is clear evidence that the American University of Beirut is just another American institution that acts against freedom of speech and is authoritarian in nature. 

In the run up to the first Lebanese Parliamentary elections in nearly ten years, the BBC has decided to host a few political analysts and commentators to take part in its Global Questions debate to explore Beirut’s political relationships with its neighboring countries. 

The debate entitled “A View from Beirut: The Impact of the Saudi/Iran Power Struggle” had invited Iranian Tehran University Professor and independent political analyst Seyed Mohammad Marandi as a member of the English-speaking panel, but the AUB administration informed BBC on Saturday that he is not be allowed to participate in the debate that will take place on AUB’s campus. 

Al-Ahed news contacted Dr. Marandi, who commented on the matter saying “I was very surprised that I was banned from participating in the panel discussion to be held on AUB campus and AUB said I could not participate while all the Saudi and Lebanese panelists will be allowed to participate. What was also very surprising was that while AUB is preventing me from speaking, the BBC is forced to appease AUB. In other words, I think it is unacceptable for AUB to be able to impose conditions on debates, and I think that the BBC or any other media outlet or organization should find this completely intolerable and unacceptable and I think that BBC should change the venue.” 

In an exclusive statement to al-Ahed, Dr. Marandi pointed out that “The Americans, who claim to be advocating freedom of speech and democracy, are the ones who are here clearly preventing freedom of speech and preventing anything other than their own narrative from being heard.” 

“What increases my surprise even further is that I was actually a visiting fellow to AUB in 2011 and 2012. I was there on my sabbatical from the University of Tehran and I was also born in the United States, so if AUB cannot tolerate a person who was born in the United States, a person who is an academic and was previously a visiting scholar at AUB, then what is left of debate?” he wondered.

Ironically, AUB’s official website reads “The University believes deeply in and encourages freedom of thought and expression and seeks to foster tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue.”