Feyisa Lilesa fears he could be killed for Rio 2016 gesture

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If you watched the men’s marathon at the Olympics on Sunday, you might have caught a glimpse of Feyisa Lilesa making a hand gesture after crossing the finish line.

The 26-year-old took the silver medal after finishing 70 seconds behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and proceeded to cross his arms in the air.

It turns out the gesture could land Lilesa in big trouble. In fact, the Olympian fears it could even cost him his life.


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The gesture is a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people, who are currently protesting against being moved from their farmland by the Ethiopian government.

Lilesa now fears that he will have to flee his home nation - despite winning a silver for Ethiopia in Rio - in order to stay alive.

Lilesa fears being killed

“The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe,” the runner is quoted as saying by the London Evening Standard.

“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.

"If not kill me, they will put me in prison.

“I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country.”

The Oromos make up about a third of the 100 million people in Ethiopia. They’re unhappy because they believe they have been excluded from the country’s economic development and political process.

Lilesa is likely to leave Ethiopia

Lilesa, per CNN, has said he could stay in Brazil or move to Kenya or the United States, depending on if he can obtain a visa for those moves.

Some of his family members are already in prison and he is concerned about the safety of his wife and two children.

There’s also a possibility that his gesture will affect his medal. The Olympics committee has, in the past, stripped athletes of their medals for political protests.

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