Ethiopian runner in 'death' protest

Toby Graves
Сентября 3, 2016

He called protesting inside the country "very risky".

"If not kill me, they will put me in prison", he said. Some of his family members are already in prison, he said, and he worries about the safety of his wife and two children. I have got a decision. Maybe I have to go to another country.

Though that scheme has subsequently been shelved, unrest flared again this month after protesters took to the streets demanding an end to rights abuses such as the release of jailed dissidents.

Oromos have been protesting Ethiopian government plans to reallocate farmland for development, prompting fierce demonstrations last November and months of unrest. It is a very bad government.

Huge protests by the Oromos have swept the streets of Ethiopia. Most of those who watched Lilesa's spectacular silver medal performance didn't know what that meant - or just how risky a protest they were watching.

On Sunday, Lilesa, who came second to Kenyan favorite Eliud Kipchoge in Rio, crossed his arms as he finished the marathon in protest against the Ethiopian government's crackdown on political dissent. Many of those protests ended in bloodshed.

And according to a Human Rights Watch report, the government is using violence to stop the protests.

The Ethiopian government has since said that the athlete is welcome home.

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"If you talk about democracy they kill you".

The runner said he now fears detention or death if he returned home. In addition to those killed, many Oromo protesters are now languishing in prison.

In the graphic video below, you can see protesters making the same gesture as Lilesa did when finishing his race.

Lilesa was conscious of the danger. Four Ethiopian runners defected during the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, and are now seeking asylum in the United States.

An Ethiopian government spokesman said Monday that Lilesa could return to the country and would receive "a heroic welcome", the Associated Press reported. But likely because Ethiopia remains a US ally in the fight against Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab, American officials have been reluctant to offer any further condemnation.

His action drew a lot of support on social media. As soon as Lilesa crossed the finish line, tweets and Facebook posts went up with pictures of their new folk hero.

Ethiopia has always been one of the world's poorest nations but has industrialised rapidly in the past decade.

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