Olympic Medalist Fears For His Life After Protesting Against Ethiopian Government

Winning the silver medal in the men’s marathon in Rio wasn’t Feyisa Lilesa’s biggest challenge

Feyisa Lilesa used his moment of triumph to make a powerful statement. But he’s worried that statement could cost him his life.

The Ethiopian runner claimed the silver medal in the men’s marathon at the Rio Games on Sunday. As he crossed the finish line, he raised and crossed his arms in an act designed to show solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. The Oromo—of which Lilesa is one—are protesting the Ethiopian government’s plan to expand the capital city of Addis Ababa into Oromia, which would displace indigenous farmers.

Human Rights Watch estimates that 400 protestors have been killed—though Lilesa asserts that number is much higher—and thousands more arrested by the Ethiopian government. “If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me,” Lilesa told Sports Illustrated. “If not, they will charge me. After that, if they [don’t] charge [me], they will block [me] in the airport in immigration. I want to move to another country.”

Feyisa Lilesa crosses his arms as he secures the silver medal in the men's marathon at the Rio Games. (Image via Getty by Adrian Dennis)

Lilesa named the United States and Kenya as possible destinations should he find himself unable to return home. But the Ethiopian government claims Lilesa has nothing to fear. Rather, officials claim Lilesa will be embraced upon his return to the African nation.

“I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family [and] nothing is going to happen to him,” Ethiopian Communications Minister Getachew Reda told CNN. Reda, who described Lilesa as an “Ethiopian hero,” disputed the runner’s claims around the numbers of protestors killed, but said he’s entitled to make a political statement. “That is his right.”

But being wary of government clearly is part of life for Lilesa’s people, who make up the nation’s largest ethnic group.

“When somebody knocks on your door, you suspect who comes,” Lilesa told SI. “Soldier or people.”

Ethiopian officials actually dropped their expansion plans in January, but reports indicate that crackdowns on protestors continued.

And that just motivated Lilesa to protest on one of the world’s biggest stages.

"I was protesting for my people," Lilesa said.

Lilesa finished the marathon with a time of 2:09:54. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge won gold, while American Galen Rupp took the bronze.

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

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Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

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