TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The American University of Beirut (AUB) has banned Dr. Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, from participating in a BBC debate about Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"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,” Dr. Marandi told Lebanon's Arabic-language al-Ahed news website on Saturday. 

“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,” he added.

The Iranian professor further said 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 said.

Also in an interview with Press TV, Dr. Marandi stressed the move by the AUB  would discredit the American university as well as the image of US academicians.

"I really do not know what is behind this decision but obviously the US government and the Saudi regime and other such antagonists have always been putting pressure on governments and academic institutions and as well as other institutions to toe the line. Whatever reason behind this ban I find it completely unacceptable," Professor Marandi said.

"I think it discredits the American University of Beirut and it discredits the image that the United States wishes to promote about itself. Also, I believe that the BBC must refuse to hold the debate at this venue, whether I am included in the discussion or not. AUB must not be allowed to dictate the terms of the debate."  

The move by the university came after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri traveled to Saudi Arabia recently for the first time since last November when he announced a surprise resignation live on television from Riyadh.

He rescinded his resignation after returning home.