Marathon Runner Bravely Makes Silent Protest At The Olympics

The definition of bravery.

When he crossed the finish line to capture the silver medal for the marathon in the 2016 Olympic games, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa fearlessly made a hand gesture that he acknowledged may have put his life in danger.

The 26-year-old crossed his arms above his head in an "X" — a symbolic protest against the Ethiopian government's reported persecution of the Oromo tribe that Lilesa belongs to.

"I was protesting for my people," Lilesa said. "It was for all my relatives in prison. I am worried to ask my relatives to talk in prison — if you talk you get killed."


The Oromo people, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, accuse their country of marginalizing their needs. The tribe's peaceful protests in the past year were often met with deadly clashes from security forces.

According to a Human Rights Watch report from June, Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 protesters since November. Nearly another 100 Oromo protesters were reportedly killed in demonstrations in early August. The Ethiopian government has denied any use of lethal force.

After the marathon, Lilesa told reporters that he might face repercussions for his silent protest at the Olympics.

"If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me," he said. "If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country."

People on social media praised Lilesa for his courageous gesture.

Shortly after the marathon on Sunday, a campaign to help Lelisa and his family seek asylum launched on GoFundMe. As of Monday, the campaign already reached over $45,000 of their $50,000 goal.


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