Olympic Medalist Fears For His Life After Protesting Against Ethiopian Government
Feyisa Lilesa used his moment of triumph to make a powerful statement. But he’s worried that statement could cost him his life.
The Ethiopian runner claimed the silver medal in the men’s marathon at the Rio Games on Sunday. As he crossed the finish line, he raised and crossed his arms in an act designed to show solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. The Oromo—of which Lilesa is one—are protesting the Ethiopian government’s plan to expand the capital city of Addis Ababa into Oromia, which would displace indigenous farmers.
Human Rights Watch estimates that 400 protestors have been killed—though Lilesa asserts that number is much higher—and thousands more arrested by the Ethiopian government. “If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me,” Lilesa told Sports Illustrated. “If not, they will charge me. After that, if they [don’t] charge [me], they will block [me] in the airport in immigration. I want to move to another country.”
Lilesa named the United States and Kenya as possible destinations should he find himself unable to return home. But the Ethiopian government claims Lilesa has nothing to fear. Rather, officials claim Lilesa will be embraced upon his return to the African nation.
“I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family [and] nothing is going to happen to him,” Ethiopian Communications Minister Getachew Reda told CNN. Reda, who described Lilesa as an “Ethiopian hero,” disputed the runner’s claims around the numbers of protestors killed, but said he’s entitled to make a political statement. “That is his right.”
But being wary of government clearly is part of life for Lilesa’s people, who make up the nation’s largest ethnic group.
“When somebody knocks on your door, you suspect who comes,” Lilesa told SI. “Soldier or people.”
And that just motivated Lilesa to protest on one of the world’s biggest stages.
"I was protesting for my people," Lilesa said.
Lilesa finished the marathon with a time of 2:09:54. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge won gold, while American Galen Rupp took the bronze.
Serena Williams just exposed one of the most sexist double standards in all of sports. The closer you look the more unbelievable it becomes.
Serena Williams responds to backlash about her catsuit by competing in a tutu “The policing of women’s bodies must end.”
Week One Of The NFL Preseason Brings Player Protests And Outrage From The President Two players from the Miami Dolphins kneeled during the national anthem
Team Fox Athletes Race Toward A Cure For Parkinson’s Disease “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Hope Solo Believes The High Cost Of Youth Soccer Is Hurting The State Of The Game Club soccer can cost families $17,000 a year, according to a recent report.
Surfer, New Mom, And Philanthropist Alana Blanchard Wants To Help Young Female Surfers Realize Their Dreams The cost for young surfers to compete can be daunting without major sponsors and brands to help with travel and contest fees, so she created the Alana Blanchard Foundation.
‘Workers Cup’ Film Highlights The Complicated Preparations For The 2022 World Cup In Qatar, workers balance their love of soccer with the burden of treacherous work conditions.