Beyond the Bubble: Italy’s vaccine passport and the state of the Taliban in Afghanistan

Lily Yost, News Reporter

On some scale, everyone lives in a bubble. Whitman and Walla Walla exist in a particularly small and hazy bubble, often immune to the events and experiences of people outside the United States. We tend to focus on U.S.-centric problems presented in the media, in our conversations and in the classroom. When citizens are out of touch with world news, it often leads to ignorance, diminished empathy and, on a larger scale, violence. Learning from the experiences of different people expands this bubble, creating space for knowledge of what happens outside of a community. As a small remedy, the Wire has attempted to broaden our community’s knowledge of international affairs with a new segment called Beyond the Bubble.

Italy’s vaccine passport conflicts with Russian-vaxxed San Marino residents:

San Marino, a microstate surrounded by Italy, relied on Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for their state-wide inoculation effort. Now they are shunned with the implementation of Italy’s “green passes,” which grant access to Italians who have received vaccines approved by European health authorities. 

In January, 2021, Italy promised to include San Marino in their vaccination campaign, but two months into distribution San Marino had yet to receive a single dose. Hospital beds filled up, and San Marino became the country with the highest COVID-19 death rate. Desperate for international support, San Marino sought guidance from Russia; the two countries have a strong political and economic relationship. The microstate hosts over 100,000 Russian tourists each year, and in 2019 San Marino refused to implement sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Crimea. 

Russia responded swiftly, providing enough vaccines for the country to quickly carry out widespread vaccination.

However, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has yet to receive approval from the European Medicines Agency. Italy only accepts Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Astrazeneca and Moderna as medically credible vaccines, excluding Sputnik V. 

Italy has introduced a “green pass,” which requires inoculation from one of the accepted vaccines to participate in social activities. Going to a bar, dining in, and attending concerts require the green pass or a recent negative test result. 

As of Oct. 15, the same criteria apply for employment: without evidence of vaccination with the green pass, Italians can no longer make a living—one of the strictest vaccine mandates established thus far in the Western world. 

The majority of vaccinated San Marino citizens received the Sputnik V vaccine. Unless they get tested before every outing, they are restricted to the 24 square miles (61 km2) of their country. Consequences are even more severe with Italy’s updated policy: in addition to their social life, Italy’s health pass restricts San Marino citizens’ ability to earn a living. 

Sputnik V-vaccinated San Marino citizens who work in Italy will have to take a leave of absence, halting their income. Or they can opt for swabs three times a week, costing around $20 each. That’s $240 every month.

Lancet, an esteemed medical journal, rated Sputnik V’s vaccine efficacy at 91.6 percent. The journal referred to it as “safe and effective.”

Italians and Sammarinese are currently protesting against Italy’s green pass policy.

Taliban advancement in Afghanistan:

In recent months, a lot has changed for people in Afghanistan. Late August 2021 marked the end of America’s war with Afghanistan, as President Biden’s military evacuation was finalized, following through with his announcement in April to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops by early September. 

The Taliban emerged in 1994 from religious seminaries and mujahideen groups (Muslims fighting in guerilla warfare on behalf of Islam) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When in power, the Taliban implements authoritarian laws that align with their strict interpretation of the Quran. This includes restrictions on women’s lives, like their right to work and to attend school. Threats of opposition are met with violent punishments, including dissenters enduring beatings, amputations or public executions. Human rights activists and journalists risk their lives under Taliban influence.

Shortly after Biden’s April announcement to withdraw all American troops, the Taliban increased their territorial gains quickly until Kabul, the nation’s capital, remained the only region unoccupied. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, leaving the Afghani government to collapse. On Aug. 15, the Taliban seized Kabul. Chaos broke out in Kabul’s international airport as thousands of Afghans fled the country in fear of the Taliban’s regime. Some clung to the outsides of airplanes ready for flight. 

In a press conference on Aug. 17, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised the protection of women under their rule.

 “The Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of women within the framework of Sharia…they are going to be working with us, shoulder to shoulder,” said Mujahid.

After speaking about women’s rights, Mujahid emphasized the priority of Sharia law, Islam’s legal system. 

“Our women are Muslim. They will also be happy to be living within our framework of Sharia.”

Later in August, ISIS-K set off a suicide bomb outside of Kabul’s airport as tens of thousands attempted to flee. Almost 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members died. 

The U.S. retaliated with drone strikes on the suspected ISIS-K members, but ended up killing 10 civilians, including seven children. As of Oct. 15, the Pentagon has offered to pay the victims’ family. 

The next day, U.S. military forces officially left the country.

In September, schools opened for boys without any mention of girls’ attendance. In the meantime, Afghans continue their attempts to flee the country or remain under Taliban rule, preparing for the probable onset of a repressive regime.

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