Docademia: The Origins

In 2003, the war in Iraq brought about chaos and tragedy around the world. While North America—with the help of other nations—was trying to repair itself after the horrendous attacks of 9/11, the neighbors of Iraq dealt with their own strife alone. On the eastern border of Iraq was Iran, the home country of Docademia’s co-founders, Nassim Abdi and Babak Shahmansouri.

After losing loved ones and witnessing the terrible consequences of war in her country, Abdi left for America as a grad-student to pursue her passion for education. She held hope for the power of education to be useful in the face of adversities such as discrimination and violence. With degrees in international education policy and women’s studies, she began to teach others of the casualties of war. She wanted to tell her story, along with those of other unheard voices.

Abdi had grown up in the battlefield of the conflict between Iran and Iraq, she had lost her fiancé, and seen the effects of chemical warfare up close. She tried to engage others in the conversation with her story in her transnational feminism class, connecting it to the impact of war on women and children. Sadly, no matter how personal and emotional her story was, it couldn’t bring others into the discussion. Hardly any of her students were affected, and Abdi was at loss. She didn’t know how to connect to them; and yet, she didn’t give up, knowing that they had potential.

Finally, she found out how to establish that human connection, she used documentaries. Abdi was inspired by the many Q&A sessions she saw while on tour for her role in “The Secret Ballot” (Sony Pictures, 2001), a film that won a Venice Film Festival award. She asked her friend Sarah Khaki if she could use her documentary “Facing the Mirror”, which followed a plastic surgeon as he tried to treat the many victims of the Iran-Iraq conflict. In addition, she also asked Khaki for an online Q&A between her and Abdi’s students after they had seen the film. And thus, with the support of Khaki, the first documentary of Docademia was a success. Abdi had finally gotten her class’s involvement; and later the idea behind Docademia.