The Ethiopian marathoner who protested against his government during the Olympics is now in the US

Did he put his life in danger?
Did he put his life in danger?
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian marathoner who crossed his arms in anti-government protest at the finish line during last month’s Rio Olympics, has arrived in the United States. The silver medalist did not return home after the games ended saying he feared for his life.

“If not kill me, they will put me in prison,” Lilesa said at the time.

The athlete’s protest gesture drew attention to the unrest that has rocked Ethiopia since November last year. Members of the Oromo community have been protesting against the government, demanding land reform and an end to human rights violations. More recently, the Amhara community joined in on the demonstrations over land rights too. Together, the two communities make up 61% of the country’s population, signifying a growing problem for Ethiopia’s regime. Human rights organizations estimate that more than 500 people have been killed by security forces in the demonstrations so far.

Following his protest gesture, the 26-year-old runner received worldwide attention. A fundraising campaign, which was set up to support him and his family, surpassed its intended goal of $150,000. The Ethiopian government also promised to welcome him back into the country as a “hero.”

Sources knowledgeable of the athlete’s situation told Quartz that he will hold a press conference next week in Washington DC.