Olympian Feyisa Lilesa: From Rio to America, I will keep fighting Ethiopia’s oppression
By Feyisa Lilesa
On Aug. 21, when I reached the finish line of the men’s marathon at the Olympics in Rio, I crossed my fists above my head. This is sign of peaceful protest used by my people, the Oromo, for the past 10 months. I did it to raise awareness; hundreds of my fellow Ethiopians have been killed by security forces only because they peacefully protested against injustice. I knew there were millions of people watching the Olympics, and I wanted the world to see me. I want to tell the world what is happening in Ethiopia — in Oromia, Amhara, Ogaden, Gambella and elsewhere.
I know if I go back to Ethiopia I will be killed, arrested or put on a list of people never allowed to leave the country again. Ethiopia’s government spokesperson made a comment in the media that I would be safe. But government security forces have killed hundreds for just doing what I did. Crossing my wrists in Rio has already had a great impact on my life; I am now separated from my dear mother, my supportive wife and my precious children in Ethiopia, whom I miss dearly. I am here safely in the United States on a special skills visa for the time being.
As I was preparing for Olympic competition, my thoughts were always preoccupied with the suffering of my people. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s single largest ethnic group. The Ethiopian coffee that Americans drink comes mostly from my region. We are also well known for our long-distance runners. Peaceful protests against the government started in November when the government was forcing Oromo farmers off their land and selling it to foreign investors. Since then, human rights reports say more than 500 people have been gunned down by the security forces, but I believe at least twice as many have been killed. This includes at least 12 people that I know from my home district of Jaldu in Oromia. Tens of thousands have been arrested. Families do not know what happened to their sons and daughters after they were taken by the army and police…Read More on WashingtonPost.com
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