Since the last Iranian election, women’s rights activists in exile have largely monopolized depictions of the women’s movement in Iran. The 2013 presidential electoral debates have brought forth new domestic women’s activists who have been previously excluded. In a debate planned at the Alzahra University in Tehran, these women were representing the different presidential candidates in a discussion of the key question: “What is the main women’s issue in today’s Iran?” However, the presidential candidates’ debates on TV portrayed women as housewives and mothers. This positioning towards women’s rights has created debates among Iranian women’s rights activists. Many discuss the representation of women as mothers in relation to the candidates’ political background. Here I will draw the attention towards the need to understand women’s representation in the 2013 debates in relation to national and international “threats” that have been claimed by the presidential candidates in the debates.
As Peyghabarzadeh (2013), an Iranian women’s rights activist, states candidates’ viewpoints on women’s roles in Iranian society are a nationalistic view which seeks to represent women as the symbol of national identity for the interests of the nation. “These viewpoints are not looking after women’s interests, but rather following what many nationalists would call national interest … women’s duty as being the symbol of national identity or producing the next generation …” (my translation).