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Ethiopian runner puts life at risk with Olympics protest gesture

By NJ Correspondent:

Photo Courtesy of Getty images.

Photo Courtesy of Getty images.

Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa has put his life in danger after staging a protest gesture at the Olymic marathon finish line in Rio on Sunday in solidarity with his Oromo people back at home.

The 26-year-old runner crossed his wrists and held his arms over his head as he approached the finishing line. He finished second in the race.

His action could now complicate matters for him given the harsh crackdown met with his people who have been taking to the streets since November last year.

“The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all the protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe,” Lilesa said.

The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, have been protesting against the government, demanding equal economic opportunities, political reform and an end to police crackdown.

Amhara, the country’s second ethnic group, recently joined the anti-government protests too.

97 people were reportedly killed earlier this month when security forces fired live bullets at protestors.

At a press conference, Lilesa expressed fear that his life could be in danger if he went back to Ethiopia.

“If not kill me, they will put me in prison,” Lilesa said. “I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country.”

Some his relatives have already suffered imprisonment in the hands of the Tigray – dominated government.

The runner is now contemplating to extend his stay in Brazil, move to America or Kenya if granted asylum.

Lilesa’s move could also see him stripped of his medal as IOC rules do not condone such political actions if interpreted that way.

It is not the first time Ethiopian athletes from the Oromo tribe fled their country citing persecution, imprisonment and torture.


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