January 10, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Jeso Carneiro @Flickr
Oromo athlete Feyisa Lilesa gained international acclaim when he crossed the finish line at the Rio Olympics of 2016 with his arms crossed above his head, as a gesture of protest against the Ethiopian Government’s crackdown on the Oromo people. Since then, he has been living in exile in the US and had an interview with the BBC about the sacrifices he has had to make for this great gesture of solidarity. Mr Lilesa explained that he had decided he would take this stand 3 months prior to the Olympics, as he wanted to use this opportunity to showcase to the world the hardship of the Oromo people. Despite the heavy personal price, living in exile away from his family, he underlined that he had no regrets and would only have regretted not having used this platform to shine a light on the Oromo struggle. He also stressed that despite the Ethiopian’s government’s claims that he would be safe upon return to Ethiopia, the fact that on their social media accounts they denounced his gesture as a “terrorist act” proves that he cannot yet return to his home. Nonetheless, Mr Lilesa reasserts that he has no intention to ask for asylum in the US, hoping to return home and continue his athletic career, representing the Oromo people.
Click here to listen to the BBC’s interview with Feyisa Lilesa