Abebe Bikila 1960, 64& Feyisa Lilesa 2016


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ethiopian Runner Won’t Return Home, but Doesn’t Know Where to Go - The New York Times

Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia made a protest gesture as he crossed the finish line in the marathon at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. CreditOlivier Morin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Ethiopian marathoner who flashed an antigovernment gesture as he crossed the finish line in second place at the Rio Olympics will not go home.
The runner, Feyisa Lilesa, will not fly back to Ethiopia on Tuesday with the rest of his team, his agent said, choosing instead to remain in Brazil with his immigration status unclear.
“He didn’t plan at all for this,” said Mr. Lilesa’s agent, Federico Rosa, speaking by telephone from Brescia, Italy. "He doesn’t want to go to Ethiopia, he wants to go to another country. The U.S. would be very good but right now we just don’t know where he’s going to go. He was very happy after winning but also a bit confused.”
By raising his arms and crossing them in an X in front of his face as he crossed the finish line Sunday, Mr. Lilesa, 26, has crossed the Ethiopian government, one of the most repressive in Africa.
His gesture, which he repeated during an award ceremony on Sunday after the race, was the most visible in a growing wave of protests in recent months against Ethiopia’s government. This unusual burst of protests has erupted across Ethiopia, especially in Oromia, the region from which Mr. Lilesa hails, and where the gesture of raised arms crossed in front of one’s face has become a sign of defiance.
Tens of thousands of protesters have been jailed and hundreds have been killed, according to Human Rights Watch. Mr. Lilesa said in interviews after his race that he believed that if he were to return home, he, too, would be punished. The Ethiopian government has said he has nothing to worry about and that he would be treated like a hero upon his return.

Violent Protests in Ethiopia

Demonstrators demanding political change in Ethiopia have been met with violent resistance by the government. Witnesses say that scores of protesters have been fatally shot during clashes with police.
 By Neeti Upadhye on Publish DateAugust 12, 2016. Photo by Tiksa Negeri/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »
Mr. Rosa said that Mr. Lilesa was a serious young man who “doesn’t like to play games.”
Some sports analysts have speculated that Mr. Lilesa, who finished the Olympic marathon in 2:09:54, and has one of the 50 fastest times in history, might chose to run for another country, such as Bahrain or Qatar. The Gulf states have wooed many other African-born athletes with promises of large pay days if they win international competitions.
Mr. Rosa said that Mr. Lilesa, who won the Tokyo marathon this year and has a contract with Nike, did not make his protest in an effort to cash in.
“He didn’t plan at all to go to another country,” Mr. Rosa said. “I don’t know even when he decided to do this. He didn’t say anything to me about it. I was surprised. And you don’t do something like this for money. He did this to defend his country.”
In an interview with journalists Sunday in Rio after his race, Mr. Lilesa saidhe did not discuss his protest beforehand with his agent, coaches, teammates or his family. His wife and two children remain in Ethiopia.
If Mr. Lilesa wants to apply for asylum in the United States, it would be difficult to do that while in Brazil. He might first have to get asylum in Brazil and then apply to the American authorities for so-called humanitarian parole. Under that program, which is used sparingly, often for people in danger, Mr. Lilesa would be allowed to travel to the United States and stay temporarily. Once on American soil, he could apply for political asylum.
Mr. Lilesa has became a sensation on social media. As of Tuesday night, nearly $100,000 had been raised for him via a crowdsourcing website. “We assure you all the money collected will go to support this Oromo/Ethiopian hero,” the site said.
Correction: August 23, 2016 
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated when Feyisa Lilesa made his second protest gesture. It was at a separate awards ceremony after the men’s marathon, not the medals ceremony.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ethiopia 'hero' runner gets asylum donations after Oromo protest sign - BBC News

Ethiopia 'hero' runner gets asylum donations after Oromo protest sign

  • 2 hours ago
  • From the sectionAfrica
Feyisa LilesaImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe "x" symbol is used by in protests against the Ethiopian government attempts to reallocate land
A crowd-funding campaign has raised more than $40,000 (£30,000) to help Ethiopia's Olympic marathon silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa seek asylum.
He crossed his hands above his head as he finished the race - a gesture made by Ethiopia's Oromo people who have suffered brutal police crackdowns.
He says he may be killed if he goes home but Ethiopia's government says he will be welcomed as a hero.
However, state media is not showing photos of him crossing the line.
There has been a wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months over a series of frustrations, including attempts by the governments to reallocate land in the Oromo and Amhara regions.
US-based Human Rights Watch says security forces have killed more than 400 Oromo protesters, a figure the government disputes.
Rule 50 of the Olympic charter bans political displays or protests and the IOC say they are gathering information about the case.

More on Ethiopia's unrest:

Protesters mourningImage copyrightAFP

The BBC's Emmanuel Igunza in neighbouring Kenya says Mr Feyisa is being described by some as the bravest Olympian at the Rio Games for his anti-government protest, but he now faces the prospect of a life in exile.
Within hours of his protest, a crowd-funding page was set up, saying the runner had displayed "extraordinary heroism" and that he had become an "international symbol" for the Oromo protests.
The California-based organiser had initially set a target of $10,000 but it was exceeded within an hour.
"We raised the bar to $25,000 and that too was exceeded in a few hours,"Solomon Ungashe wrote on Facebook.
Protestors in New York gathered opposite United Nations Headquarters January 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe "x" symbol is used by people across the world, including in New York in January, demonstrating against deaths at Oromo protests...
A demonstrator (L) dressed in military fatigue joins members of the Oromo, Ogaden and Amhara community in South Africa as they demonstrate against the ongoing crackdown in the restive Oromo and Amhara region of Ethiopia on August 18, 2016 in JohannesburgImage copyrightAFP
Image caption... and in Johannesburg four days ago
After the race, Mr Feyisa explained why, as an Oromo, he supported the protests about land and resources.
"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," he said.
A legal team hired by Ethiopians in US is headed to Rio to try and help Mr Feyisa, who has a wife and two children in Ethiopia, with a request to seek asylum in the US.
But Information Minister Getachew Reda told the BBC the government had no reason to arrest him and it respected his political opinion.
He also said none of Mr Feyisa's relatives had been jailed over the Oromo protests.
Ethiopian state-owned television station EBC Channel 3 covered the race live, including the finish, but did not repeat the clip in subsequent bulletins - focussing instead on the winner Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge.

Ethiopian Marathoner’s Protest Puts Him at Odds With His Government - The New York Times



Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia, who won the silver medal in the men’s marathon at the Rio Olympics, during an award ceremony on Sunday.CreditRobert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

As Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia crossed the finish line in his silver-medal marathon run at the Rio Olympics on Sunday, he raised his arms and crossed them in an X, a gesture of protest against his country’s government that he said could get him killed if he returned home.
He is uncertain where he will go next, and what will become of his wife and two children in Ethiopia.
“If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me,” he said at a news conference after the race, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “If I am not killed, maybe they will put me in prison.”
An accomplished distance runner who has one of the 50 fastest marathon times, he defied an Olympic prohibition on political demonstrations to make his statement, raising his arms again in protest at the race’s medal ceremony. He quickly attracted supporters on social media.

Antigovernment protests in Ethiopia, an American ally that has experienced stability and a growing economy over the last decade, have been growing recently, with thousands of people demanding political changes.
Human rights groups say the protests have been met by brutal crackdowns by the government, including the shooting deaths of unarmed protesters. A Human Rights Watch report in June estimated that more than 400 people had been killed in seven months, almost all of them civilians.
Protesters in the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, say they feel marginalized. The Tigrayan ethnic group makes up about 6 percent of the population but dominates in politics, the military and commerce.
“The Ethiopian government is killing my people, so I stand with all protests anywhere, as Oromo is my tribe,” Mr. Lilesa said, according to The Washington Post. “My relatives are in prison, and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”
He told reporters he did not know where he would go next, but mentioned Kenya and the United States as possibilities, according to a video from LetsRun.com.

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