Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
RIO DE JANEIRO — As Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finish line of the men’s marathon Sunday, he crossed his arms above his head.
The gesture was a sign of protest the Ethiopian runner, who won silver behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, said at a news conference.
“The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo,” he said. “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed. I raised my hands to support with the Oromo protest.”
According to the Washington Post, the X gesture has been used by the Oromo people for months as a sign of protest.
Several dozen people were shot dead in recent weeks as Ethiopian security forces crack down on protesters, according to a report by the Associated Press. Amnesty International said 67 people were shot dead in the Oromia region.
Lilesa says he fears for his safety if he returns to his country.
“I will discuss with my family and my friends,” he said. “If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country.”
The International Olympic Committee prohibits athletes from making political statements during the Games.
Lilesa was asked if he feared a sanction for his action.
“I cannot do anything about that. This was my feeling. I have a big problem in my country, it is very dangerous to make protest in my country.”