Ethiopia’s Protesting Olympic Medalist Wants to Stay in the US
An Ethiopian marathon runner who made protest gestures against his country’s government at the Rio Olympics has requested to stay in the US, according to reports.
Feyisa Lilesa made global headlines at the Olympic games – not so much for his silver medal but his protest gesture against the Ethiopian government. Suddenly, the world is talking about the struggles of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
Lisesa not looking for asylum
Despite his plans to stay in the US, Lisesa insists he is not looking for asylum.
“I am asking for freedom for my people, not asylum in the United States,” he told the press this week.
Instead, he wants to stay in the US to continue his training in the profession that put him on the global stage. And his performance at the Rio Olympics certainly made an impression on his audience – not only in the stadium but in homes around the world.
“I knew this was being live broadcast around the world, and I wanted to show that the protests in Ethiopia were peaceful just like my sign was,” he said.
As he approached the finish line in the Men’s marathon, Lisesa raised his hands above his head and crossed them into an ‘X’. It’s the sign of Oromo people who have been embroiled in deadly conflicts with Ethiopian security forces this year.
The protests initially revolved around government plans to expand the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa into Oromo territory. Peaceful protests turned violent when security forces clamped down on the gatherings, eventually opening fire on unarmed crowds with live ammunition.
Various people were killed in the protests and many more arrested until the government scrapped plans for the capital’s expansion. However, many of those arrested during the initial protests remain in detention, which has prompted new protests against the government.
Lisesa previously told the media he believes he will be killed if he returns to Ethiopia.