Yet, despite everything, the 26-year-old said he wasn’t seeking asylum in the United States. The US government has granted him a temporary visa for people with extraordinary skills or abilities. He says he wants to get back to running and is exploring spaces in New Mexico or Arizona for training.

Asked if he would run for the US as an athlete given the chance, Lilesa responded in the negative. “I love my country,” he said. “What I am asking for is freedom and I look back to going to my country once there’s freedom.”

Feyisa said that he regularly communicates with his family, but refused to acknowledge that they faced dangers that were any different from what other Ethiopians were confronting.

“I don’t want to look at my children any different from the children of other people in my country who are being killed,” Lilesa said of his two children, a five-year-old daughter, and a three-year-old son. “They face the same fate and the same destiny like all other children in Ethiopia.”

In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday, Lilesa said he had received no contact from the Ethiopian government and had no plans to initiate any with them. He conditioned the government to release all prisoners before he can have any talks with them.

Since his arrival in the country last week, Lilesa hasn’t met members of the Ethiopian community in the DC area. He’s set to receive a hero’s welcome at a reception organized by the community on Tuesday (Sept. 3), where songs written in his honor will be performed.

At the end of the press conference, Lilesa, speaking with a soft tone, emphasized why the protest was symbolic for and amongst all Ethiopians. “People are saying from now on we want to live in peace, we are tired of getting killed, we don’t want to be in prison, we don’t want to be forced into exile, we want to decide on our resources and shape the destiny of our country,” he said. “We’ve had enough.”

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