Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa thinks he may be killed because of the way he celebrated crossing the finish line on Sunday.

  • The potential political exile won a silver medal in the Olympic marathon on Sunday, finishing with a time of 2:09:54.
  • As he finished, he crossed his arms over his head.
  • This is a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people’s protests which have broken out over Ethiopia recently.

See him cross the finish line here:

Lilesa’s native group, the Oromo, are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, making up at least a third of the population of the small country of 100 million people.

He gave an interview after the race explaining his actions which were intended to draw international attention to the Oromo’s persecution in Ethiopia. 

He also said that some of his family are already in jail, and that if he goes back home, “I really think that I would be killed.” His wife and children may also be in danger. Depending on where he can get a visa granted, he plans to stay in the United States, or even Kenya.

Watch Feyisa Lilesa’s interview:

What is the issue he is protesting?

In Ethiopia, the largest ethnic group is the Oromo, but they are constantly marginalized by the government for the last ten years.

  • Recently, the government unfairly promoted the take over of Oromo farms for development.
  • Their systematic persecution has led to massive nationwide protests for months.

  • The government has attempted to extinguish the demonstrations in a brutal way.
  • The security forces are using live ammunition and lethal force. Human Rights Watch said that there have been 400 casualties and tens of thousands arrested during the 500 protests which have happened since November.
  • There are even protests in the US, encouraging America to stop supporting the country’s government politically.

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