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ESPN The Magazine: Why Olympic Silver Medalist Feyisa Lilesa Didn’t Go Home May 1, 2017

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‘…He isn’t just an athlete anymore but a symbol and a voice.’

A Runner In Exile

After his dramatic protest at the Rio Olympics, Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa didn’t feel safe returning home. But even in his new life in America, he can’t be sure what waits for him around the corner.
by Kurt Streeter, EPSN The Magazine, 1st May 2017.

After months of interviews, conference calls across three time zones and multiple trips to Arizona, ESPN’s big feature on Feyisa Lilesa is out. It is the most comprehensive piece on Feyisa Lilesa the athlete, his protest and ongoing efforts to shed light on the Oromo people’s suffering in Ethiopia.Kurt Streeter is an excellent reporter, writer and journalist. He dug deep and asked questions no one did. The result is a story that humanizes Feyisa and the Oromo story itself. Thank you, Kurt!


Fayyisaa Leellisaa goota Oromoo April 30, 2017

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Fayyisaa Leellisaa goota Oromoo

Dorgommiin Marathon Raawwate ilaalchisee

Dorgommiin London Marathon jedhamuun beekamu magaalaa London Keessatti geggeeffame. Dorgommii Ebla 23, 2017 geggeeffame kana irratti akkuma hubatamu atileetota beekamoo Marathon dabalatee namoota hedduutu qooda fudhate. London Marathon irratti dorgomtoonni Oromo qaamota adda addaa bakka bu’uun qooda fudhatan.

Dorgommiin Marathon ummata Oromoo biratti haarawaa miti. Oromootni hedduun kana akka Abbabaa Biqiilaa, Maammoo Waldee fi kkf fiigicha Marathon mohachuun Itoophiyaan akka beekamtu yommuu godhan mirga Oromoof jecha kallattiin qooda isaan qabaachaa turan garuu waan ifatti mul’ate hin turre. Kunis haala yeroo sanaa fi dammaqiinsa tureen ka masakamu yommuu ta’u Fayyisaa Lalisaa ka adda godhu garuu Marathonii fi qabsoo ummatni Oromoo mirga isaatiif godhaa jiru walitti fiduun addunyaan akka beektu gochuu danda’uu isaati. Ummata Oromoo mirgi isaa sarbamaa jiruuf sagalee ta’uun addunyaa hubachisee.

Gootichi Oromoo Fayyisaa Lalisaa bakka bu’aa biyya kamuu otoo hinta’in Oromoo fi Oromummaa qofa bakka bu’uun nama qooda fudhate yommuu ta’u Oromootni hawaasota Oromoo bakka garaagaraa London keessatti daandii adda addaa qarqara gurmuun dhaabbachuun ‘’Fayyisaa Leellisaa goota Oromoo’’ jechuun sagalee olkaasuun jajjabeessaa turan.

Fayyisaan yeroo dhihoo kana Ameerikaa keessatti yeroo lama dorgommii Marathon geggeeffamee ture irratti fiiguun yommuu 1ffaa fi 2ffaa bahu miidhama luka isaa irra gahe irraa otoo hindandamatin akkasumas boqonnaa gahaa ta’e otoo hin argatin dorgommii isa kana irratti nama qooda fudhate dha.

Fayyisaan gooticha keenya, kutataa fi hadha qabeessi Oromoo, ka madaalamu London Marathon mohachuun ykn mohatamuun akkasumas Rio-Olympics 2016 irrattis mohachuu isaa qofaan otoo hintaane, fiigicha yommuu xumuru harka isaa lamaan olkaasee wal qaxxaamursuun mallattoo ummatni Oromoo karaa nagaan mirga bilisummaa isaaf qabsoo ittiin geggeeffataa jiru addunyaatti waan agarisiisuu danda’eef dha.

Bifa kanaan Fayyisaan kanneen rakkoo Oromoo beekuun hafee, Oromoon ummata akkamii akka ta’ee fi essatti akka argamu illee dhagahee ka hinbeekne akka beeku nama godhe dha.

Fayyisaan nama of danda’ee jireenya gaarii jiraataa ture yommuu ta’u mana gaariin, konkolaataa gaariin walumaagala bu’aan ykn dantaan otoo isa hindagachiisin nama rakkoo ummata isaa hubatuun addunyaa illee hubachiisuu danda’e akkasumas dantaa offif jecha rakkoo ummata offii namoota dagataniif illee nama fakkeenya gaarii ta’uu danda’u dha.

Atileeti Fayyisaa Leellisaa akkuma yeroo biraa dorgommii London Marathon yommuu xumuree fi BBC waliin yommuu gaaffii fi deebii geggeessee ture harka isaa lamaan olkaasee wal qaxxaamursuun mallattoo ummatni isaa karaa nagaan qabsoo isaa geggeeffataa jiru irra deebiin agarsiise.

Fayyisaan seenaa Oromoon mirga isaaf falmataa jiru keessatti qooda olaanaa yommuu qabaatu ummatni Oromoo Diasporaa goota kana cina dhaabbachuu fi jajjabeessuun akka irraa egamu dirqama lammummaa ofirraa qaba.

Oromootni UK waamicha lammummaa koreen hojii geggeessituu hawaasa Oromoo UK dabarsee ture kabajuun bakka barbaachisaa ta’etti argamtanii goota Oromoo Fayyisaa Leellisaa jajjabeessuu fi hamilee kennuufii keessaniif hedduu galatoomaa.  Lammiiwwan keenya, Oromoota UK yoomiyyuu taanaan isin gaachana hawaasa Oromoo UK waan taataniif isiniin boonna. Irra deebiin hedduu galatoomaa jenna.


Oromo Community in UK honoured Olympian Fayyisaa Leellisaa, Oromo national hero (Goota Oromoo)


Itti dabalata barreeffama kanaa kan ta’u as tuqaa dubbisaa: 

Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: Feyisa Lilesa fulfills his promise to protest fascist Ethiopia’s regime at the London Marathon 2017. Kenyan and Oromo athletes dominated both the London and Hamburg Marathon 2017 races.

London Marathon favourite Feyisa Lilesa amazing protest. #OromoProtests April 21, 2017

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 Feyisa Lilesa: I just didn’t have the words to explain to my wife why I’d put her and our children in danger

  • He made a powerful political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio
  • The 27-year-old Ethiopian publicised the persecution of the Oromo people 
  • Lilesa is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon

It looked innocuous and many did not even know what it meant. After 26 miles of gruelling competition, Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa approached the Sambadrome, Rio’s carnival venue and the Olympic marathon finishing line, in second place.

Then he raised his arms and crossed them. And then again, repeating the gesture all the way over the last 100 metres to the finish line. With an Olympic silver medal secured, celebration might have been expected. But as they watched 6,000 miles away back home, his wife and family were fearing the consequences of that simple act.

Unknown to them, Lilesa, 27, one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon, had been running with a goal which surpassed the individual glory of winning an Olympic medal. He had told nobody of his plan, not even his wife and family.

Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa made a political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio

Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa made a political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio

The crossed arms were a signal of protest about the persecution of his people, the Oromo, in Ethiopia, a country riven by political violence and dispute, where Amnesty International reports at least 800 protesters have been killed. Amnesty has urged the Ethiopian government to end mass arrests and beatings, as well as the unlawful detention of journalists and politicians making the Oromo cause.

‘You can’t even think in your head without feeling suspicious that someone is listening to your thoughts, let alone speaking or telling someone,’ says Lilesa. ‘So I made a decision that I had to keep it to myself. Because if I was to tell someone — even my family — and the word gets out, I would not even be able to go to Rio. So I went there having not told a single person.’

That made his first phone call to his wife, Iftu Mulisa, and children, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora, three, a traumatic affair. While many Oromo people were jubilant their cause was being publicised, his wife was aghast. There was no question in his mind of returning to Ethiopia. However, his family were stuck there.

‘When I first called her I just didn’t have the words to tell her and I didn’t have the words to say to her,’ he says. ‘It was a challenge initially just talking to her and explaining my decision and why I didn’t consult with them.

Lilesa with his wife, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora in their apartment in Arizona

Lilesa with his wife, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora in their apartment in Arizona

‘But she understood the importance of this. The problem in the country has reached every household. They understand the importance and what it means. Their two main differences were that I did not consult with them when I was planning this and not having a concrete plan for them or the future and what might happen to them.

‘This gesture was started by university students and people knew about it. A lot of people were arrested essentially for showing that gesture. Coincidentally, that same day, the government stopped a rally in Addis Ababa. People went home because the city was engulfed by military forces and they happened to be watching TV.

‘The race was being broadcast on state television when it happened, the first time I showed the gesture. But since I kept repeating it, they quickly cut the live transmission and went back to the studio. People understood why the transmission was cut abruptly.

‘Of course my family was scared and they were shocked because they didn’t know what would happen to me. I had fears for my family. But a lot of people were getting killed. I knew it was just a matter of time before it reached my family. It has touched almost every household.

Lilesa's wife was aghast that he had publicised the persecution of the Oromo people

Lilesa’s wife was aghast that he had publicised the persecution of the Oromo people

‘In fact, my brother-in-law was one of the people arrested and taken away from university and he remains in jail to this day. Young people were being killed, elderly were being killed. My friends were in jail and I had other friends who were being killed. So my family also feared the same fate. I feared they would be affected one day and that they had not was just that it was not their turn.

‘But generally at the time, I didn’t really care much about my life and the consequences this would bring to my family, because I knew the fate other people were going through in that country.’

Lilesa knew he needed a medal for his plan to succeed. ‘If I didn’t win a medal no one would have noticed me. No one would have seen my protest. It would not have had the impact. No one would have actually believed my story and I could have potentially returned to Ethiopia and bad things might have happened to me. So winning the medal was part of my plan.’

He was briefly in no man’s land in Rio de Janiero. Though he says many team-mates and officials supported his protest, he was persona non grata. ‘They don’t even want to see my face, so I don’t expect them to allow me to run for the country,’ he says.

The Ethiopian government have encouraged him to return home, saying he would be welcome. He does not believe them. ‘I didn’t have fears about my life but I did have fears that I might not be able to compete,’ he says. ‘I thought this was the end of my career as an athlete.’

The 27-year-old is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon

The 27-year-old is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon

Fears for his family and career have now been addressed. Ethiopian exiles arranged a flight from Brazil to the US and he is now based in Flagstaff, Arizona, a magnet for top-class distance runners, where he can train properly.

Last month he won the New York Half Marathon in preparation for the London Marathon. More significantly, in February his family were finally permitted to join him in the US.

The reunion was understandably an emotional affair, Soko sprinting into her father’s arms when she finally saw him at the airport. ‘This was very, very important,’ he says. ‘And at least my mind is in one place in the sense that this is one weight lifted off my back. Now that at least I don’t have to worry about the safety of my children.

‘Also, I was living alone and I didn’t have much help. Now that my wife is here she can at least help me with some things I need. But the problem that put me in this position — the problem of my people — remains. My worries and concerns about that remain.’

His protests will continue. He is critical of those icons of Ethiopian athletics, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, the latter of whom he will face in London, who he says have benefited from keeping quiet and not criticising the government.

‘I admire Haile as a runner, as champion and as someone who broke a world record,’ says Lilesa. ‘But on the other hand rich people are generally benevolent and they give back to their people and they help the poor. In Ethiopia, the rich people we have are selfish and greedy and they live a parasitic life where they attach themselves to the government.’

A representative of Gebrselassie and Bekele responded by saying that such criticisms did not take account of the complicated and volatile political situation in Ethiopia, where they both still live.

LILESA wants people, especially the British, to know more about the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia. ‘Our people are being imprisoned, hundreds remain in jail. Others are being killed. Over the past year, people have been dropping like leaves. Others are running away to save their lives — to South Africa — and have died along the way.

‘The Oromo people are the majority in my country. They have a lot resources in terms of the economy. Despite that, we don’t have the political power. They have lost all their freedoms and rights.

‘I want people in England to put pressure on their government because they do provide the biggest amount of aid to the Ethiopian government, to use that leverage not to cosy up to the Ethiopian rulers but to change their behaviour and to allow our people to have their freedom and rights.

‘We don’t hate the people of Ethiopia. Our fight and issues are with the system. What I expressed is based on my experience. I’m speaking about the injustices I saw all my life. The world may not have known… until now.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-4415224/London-Marathon-favourite-Feyisa-Lilesa-amazing-protest.html#ixzz4ePMWijwV
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BBC:  Africa Highlights: Feyisa to protest killings at London Marathon

thiopia elite runner Feyisa Lilesa poses during a photocall for the men"s marathon elite athletes outside Tower Bridge in central London on April 20, 2017 ahead of the upcoming London Marathon


The athlete says he could be killed if he goes back home

Exiled Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa has vowed to protest against the government at Sunday’s London Marathon, saying “blood is flowing” in his home country.

Feyisa caught the world’s attention when made a protest gesture in solidarity with the Oromo people while crossing the line in the marathon race at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sport Today, the silver medalist said he did not regret making the gesture.

How can I regret [it]? I come from the people. My people are dying, still. The blood is flowing.”

He added that would not return to Ethiopia while the current government was in power as he would be “automatically” killed, jailed or barred from leaving the country.

Feyisa refused to go back to Ethiopia after the Olympics, despite the government saying he would be welcomed as a hero.

He is currently living in the US with his wife and children on a temporary visa.

In Rio, Feyisa became the first Ethiopian to finish in the top two of a men’s Olympic marathon since 2000, claiming silver behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

As he crossed the line, he lifted his arms to form an X above his head, the same gesture used in protests by the Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnic group, which has suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

Feyisa Lilesa

Getty Images

The ‘X’ sign is used as a symbol of protest in Ethiopia

The state-backed Ethiopia Human Rights Commission  said earlier this week that 669 people were killed in protests since November 2015.

The government has blamed the violence on “terrorists”.

A state of emergency has ben in force since last October to curb the unrest.

Read: Endurance test for Feyisa

Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution February 15, 2017

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Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family

NY Daily News, February 14, 2017


Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, rear, of Ethiopia, hugs his wife Iftu Mulia, his daughter Soko, right, 5, and son Sora, left, 3, while picking up his family at Miami International Airport on Tuesday.

Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, rear, of Ethiopia, hugs his wife Iftu Mulia, his daughter Soko, right, 5, and son Sora, left, 3, while picking up his family at Miami International Airport on Tuesday.


The Ethiopian marathoner hid behind a column at the Miami airport as he carried a bouquet of red roses.Feyisa Lilesa’s daughter spotted him first and ran in for a hug. Then, his young son and lastly his wife.On Valentine’s Day, the Olympic silver medalist who became an international figure when he crossed his wrists in protest at the finish line in Rio de Janeiro finally reunited with his family. He was a little late (traffic), but what’s a few extra minutes when he’s already waited six long months to see them.As he made his way out of the airport, his daughter rode on the luggage and his son perched on his shoulders, carrying the flowers he brought as a gift.Ethiopia’s Lilesa afraid to return home after Olympic display“The biggest gift is us seeing each other again — and me seeing them again,” Lilesa said through a translator in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s all been very tough.”

The 27-year-old eventually settled in Flagstaff, Arizona, after making an anti-government gesture during the Olympic marathon that drew global attention to the deadly protests in his home region of Oromia. He never returned home after Brazil out of fear of what might happen to him. He’s constantly been worrying about the family he left behind in Ethiopia. His nearly 6-year-old daughter, Soko, and 3 ½-year-old son, Sora, always asked when they will see him again.

Finally, he was able to answer.

Lilesa remains in the U.S. on a special skills visa. His family arrived on visas as well, secured through his attorney.

UC Davis researcher killed by protesters in Ethiopia

The plan now is this: A few days of beach time and then it’s off to Flagstaff where the family will settle into everyday life in their rental house.

One weight off his mind.

Still, he can’t forget what his country is going through, with the Oromia region experiencing anti-government protests over recent months. Violent anti-government protests spread to other parts of Ethiopia and led to a state of emergency that was declared in October.

Since his gesture, many have described Lilesa as a national hero.

Planned Parenthood fans, pro-life protesters rally across U.S.

“My mind is pretty much occupied by what is happening back home,” Lilesa said. “Whether I’m running or I’m sleeping or I’m laying back, my family and what is happening in Ethiopia — and what is happening to my people — that’s constantly on my mind.”

Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, of Ethiopia, carries his son Sora, 3, and pulls along his daughter Soko, 5, after picking up his family at Miami International Airport on Tuesday.

Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, of Ethiopia, carries his son Sora, 3, and pulls along his daughter Soko, 5, after picking up his family at Miami International Airport on Tuesday.


Most days since his arrival in America have been spent training. It was his best cure for loneliness.

“I come from a very big family, and I’ve never lived alone,” Lilesa said. “I’ve always been surrounded by people I know. This has been the complete opposite. Here, I’m removed from all of that.”

Still, he would protest all over again.

Dozens gather to mark two-year anniversary of weekly BLM protests

“I think me taking the risk and putting family in that position and putting them potentially in harm’s way, it was a good lesson for a lot of people that you need to sacrifice in order for you to win some concessions and change your situation,” Lilesa said. “In that sense, it inspires people to fight for their rights and resist the government in Ethiopia. It also led to greater awareness about the situation in Ethiopia.

“Now, you see more coverage of the human rights violations. I speak with people wherever I go. Even outside the media limelight, people are interested in knowing. They heard the story because of my protest.”

Someday, he would like to go back to Ethiopia.

“But as long as this current government is in power, I don’t have hope of going back to Ethiopia,” he explained. “I do know change is inevitable.”

Paris Jackson supports DAPL protesters at Grammys

He also wants to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Whether that’s wearing the colors of Ethiopia, he doesn’t know.

“I’m not too hopeful the system will be changed in the next three years and I will be in a position to run for Ethiopia. We will have to wait and see,” said Lilesa, who plans to run in the London Marathon in two months.

For now, Lilesa’s priority is getting his family settled.

“I knew that we would meet somehow, but I didn’t expect it would happen under these circumstances over here,” Lilesa said. “When I think about my family, it takes me back to why I did this and why I’m here. I missed my family, but this was a big bother to me — the plight of my people.”


SB Nation: Olympian Feyisa Lilesa is reuniting with his Ethiopian family in U.S., despite fear of President Trump


Star Tribune: Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family

WP: Ethiopian marathoner who protested at Rio Olympics reunites with his family

AP: Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family


BBC: World-famous Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa has reunited with his family for the first time since going into exile in the US after protesting against the government at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio, the New York Daily News reports.   

runner who protested in reunites with family in US. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/ethiopian-runner-protested-rio-reunites-family-article-1.2972659 

Photo published for Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family

Ethiopian runner who protested in Rio reunites with family

The Olympic silver medalist who became an international figure by crossing his wrists in protest finally reunited with his family.


His wife, daughter and son flew into Miami, where the 27-year-old athlete met them after a separation of about six months.

Feyisa told the newspaper through a translator:

The biggest gift is us seeing each other again, and me seeing them again. It’s all been very tough.”

Back in August, Feyisa became the first Ethiopian to finish in the top two of a men’s Olympics marathon since 2000, claiming silver behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

As he crossed the line, he lifted his arms in an X-shape above his head in solidarity with the Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnic group, who have suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

The country’s officials said the runner would be welcomed home from Rio as a hero, but Feyisa said he might be killed if he returned.

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, at Rio 2016 Olympicmarathon in the podium, finishing line in #OromoProtests as winning theOlympic medal, 21 August 2016


The “x” sign is used as a symbol of protest in Ethiopia


Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: The hero, the legend and the thinker: Oromo Athlete Feyisa Lilesa’s spectacular finish at Aramco Houston Half Marathon January 16, 2017

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Feyisa Lilesa’s post race interview in Houston: “I won’t stop protesting until freedom comes”

 Amajjii/January 16, 2017 · Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.com

Olympic marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished second at the Houston Half-Marathon on January 15, 2017, with a time of 61:14 – only a fraction of a second behind the front runner Leonard Korir. The thrilling battle between Lilesa and Korir at the finish line is captured below.

Feyisa Lilesa had, once again, shown the #OromoProtests symbol of “X” (crossing the hands over the head) as he crossed the finish line in Houston. This symbol of the #OromoProtests has been officially deemed illegal by the Ethiopian government since the declaration of the six-month State of Emergency on October 9, 2016 – a week after the Bishoftu Massacre, where hundreds of Oromos were murdered by the Ethiopian army during the UNESCO-recognized Irreecha Oromo cultural and religious festival.

After the race, during a reception thrown by the local community in Houston to honor him, Feyisa Lilesa spoke with Seife-Nebelbal, an online Oromo radio broadcast in Amharic, about his continued use of the symbol of the #OromoProtests at the finish line; Lilesa said he would continue to protest until freedom and democracy dawn in Ethiopia. Below are the interview and some photos from the reception (courtesy of journalist Ebba Abbamurti from the Lone Star State).

Click here for interview with Seife-Nebelbal Radio (in Amharic):


Click here for interview with journalist Ebba Abbamurti (in Afan Oromo)

Photos from the reception thrown in Houston in honor of athlete Feyisa Lilesa:

The thrilling finish-line battle between Lilesa and Korir:

Feyisa Lelisa runs in exile after his protest in Rio

His Olympic ‘X’leads to exilefrom Ethiopia

Photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Staff

Olympics medalist marathoner Feyisa Lilesa lowers his head after being asked about his home country Ethiopia after the Chevron Houston Marathon press conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Houston. ( Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle )

He’s the loneliest of long-distance runners, a man far removed from his country and his family. These days, Feyisa Lilesa runs not for personal glory but for emotional therapy and for a purpose he believes to be far bigger than himself.

Cultural Survival: Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio September 25, 2016

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Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio

Cultural Survival, 23 September 2016


Photo courtesy of: ctj71081/ Flickr

On August 21st, in Brazil, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa was awarded the silver medal for the Men’s Marathon in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Although this was perhaps one of the greatest sporting achievements of his life, this day will forever be remembered for the political protest he made just before the finish line.  While in the global spotlight,  Lilesa raised his hands above his head in an ‘X’ formation to stand in solidarity with the Oromo people of Ethiopia, who have suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

Lilesa is one of the thousands fighting for the rights of the Oromo people. In August 2016, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, called on Ethiopia to allow UN international observers to investigate the excessive use of force by the government’s security forces against peaceful protesters in the Oromo and Amhara regions of the country. There is a strong need for organized international pressure on the Ethiopian government. A credible and independent investigation into this country’s Human Rights offences is long overdue. This will be a huge and very welcome step for the people and the country as a whole.

More on Oromo Abuses Here

Human rights abuses have been prevalent throughout Ethiopia’s history, but for the last nine months, protests have erupted in Oromiya, the homeland of Ethiopia’s largest but historically marginalized ethnic group, the Oromo, of which Feyisa Lilesa belongs. The protests are have now spread north, to a second region, the Amhara.

Although these protesters from Oromo and Amhara have different backgrounds, cultures, and complaints, they share a growing fear and frustration with the rule of a third, minority ethnic group — the Tigrayans. As NPR reported, the Tigrayan elite has a “cartel-like grip on the government, military and the fast-growing economy.”  The Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forcefully rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then, there have been numerous human rights violations, with examples like the 2001 killing of forty Addis Ababa university students for simply demanding the academic freedom to publish a student newspaper, to the Killing of 200 Oromo in 2014, according to the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE).

Related: Learn more about the TPLF in Ethiopia here.

The right of peaceful assembly is protected in Ethiopian and International law. Ethiopia’s Constitution states “everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.” But, after Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 125 witnesses, victims, and government officials, a significant pattern of human rights violations during peaceful Oromo protests was revealed. Examples from late 2015 when the decision of authorities in Ginchi to clear a forest for an investment project triggered protests in at least 400 different locations across all the 17 zones in Oromia, until May 2016, and even into current times, prove there have been massive human rights violations. Numerous reports exposed that in many locations security forces have gone at night, arresting innocent and unsuspecting members of the community such as students and those accommodating students in their homes. Security forces also strategically target those seen as “influential members of the Oromo community, such as musicians, teachers, opposition members and others thought to have the ability to mobilize the community for further protests.” Even more shocking, is that many of those arrested and detained by the security forces were children of eighteen years and younger. Security forces have also been reported to open fire on, and kill peaceful protesters, as well as torture or beat many of the detained Oromo. Many of the females detained have reportedly been raped by security force personnel, while almost none of the detainees have had access to legal counsel, adequate food, or their family members.

An unnamed student said in an interview with HRW on January of 2016, said his friend “was shot in the stomach [at the protest], his intestines were coming out, he said, ‘Please brother, tie my [wound] with your clothes.’ I was scared, I froze and then tried to do that but I was grabbed and arrested by the federal police. Jamal died. They arrested me and took me to Bedeno police station.”

With ongoing events such as these, the people of Ethiopia have appeared to have reached their limit; the brutal force being used by the regime to deter an uprising is starting to backfire, creating new alliances between previously divided groups of Ethiopians such as the Oromo and the Amhara. The regime, struggling to find ways to retain domination, resorts to solutions like the exploitation of Ethiopian resources, land, and opportunities; but this too, is becoming a regime failure.

A press release from The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)notes, this is a regime, accustomed to using tools like manipulation to divide the people by ethnicity or other differences, furthering ethnic hatred, alienation and isolation, leaving a niche for the regime to squeeze into. It has allowed them to repeatedly commit fatal human rights atrocities against these groups with no fear of a united retaliation; but this is suddenly changing. These methods of turning selected ethnic groups against one another, is being scrutinized by Ethiopians; and previously rival groups are now unifying to challenge it. As SMNE said, “more killing, wounding and use of violence against unarmed civilians on the part of the regime’s security forces are strengthening, not weakening, the movement of the people,” but the movement is just beginning.

Ethiopia’s government has rejected the call for UN intervention and promised to launch its own investigation according to Al Jazeera. With the TPLF now facing a crack in the current power structure of the country,  the government’s resistance to UN intervention was to be expected. The fearful reality is, however, that the TPLF, power hungry, and corrupt, will continue to use illegal force in an attempt to maintain control. But this lack of legal and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent, and according to Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “It is time to step up efforts for an international and independent investigation in Ethiopia.”
For years the government has worked to project a “forward thinking, democratic, and economically progressive image” of Ethiopia to outsiders, while on the inside, achieving the total opposite. For example, laws such as the Charities and Societies Proclamation law (CSO) which is meant to appear as an advocacy network, actually has criminalized human rights and other kinds of advocacy work in Ethiopia, making an equal and  civil society impossible to maintain in Ethiopia. This makes the presence of an independent organization like the UN crucial for the protection of the Oromo people, who are practically inhibited from seeking protection themselves.

According to the Press Release from SMNE, “meaningful democratic reforms, restorative justice, and reconciliation for all the people of Ethiopia, including the current ruling party,” are the essential measures which need to be enacted if Ethiopia is to find peace and avoid total disaster. History shows that the government will not cooperate without pressure from key donor nations such as the the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Norway, Sweden etc., as well as from major international human rights organizations, to provide leverage critical in obtaining substantial changes for the rights of the Oromo people and governmental structure of Ethiopia as a whole.

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Star Tribune: Oromo Olympian draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance September 19, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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 Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

Fayyisaa’s welcoming moment at Minneapolis Convention center.

Kun Simannaa Fayyisaa Leellisaaf hawaasti Oromoo Minisootaatiin, Fulbaana 18, 2016.

Star Tribune: Oromo Olympian draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance

Marathon silver medalist seen as a hero for his running as well as his political statement.

TOM WALLACE, STAR TRIBUNE: Oromo (Ethiopian) Olympian Feyisa Lilesa entered the Minneapolis Convention Center Sunday, Sept 18, 2016 to a crowd of about 1000 well wishers. He won the silver medal in the 2016 Games in Rio and crossed the finish line with his arms crossed in an X, symbolizing the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia.

Lilesa, 26, became a hero to his people and brought global attention to the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia when he crossed his arms to form the letter X above his head as he crossed the finish line at the Rio Games.

He did the same as he entered the auditorium Sunday and the crowd erupted in cheers.

The Oromo Community of Minnesota said more than 100 Oromo people were killed in Ethiopia in August alone while peacefully protesting the government’s persecution of the ethnic group.

Lilesa, who faces jail if he returns home, has been granted a special skills visa to the United States so he can train and compete. His wife, 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter remain in Ethiopia.

His visit to Minneapolis was sponsored by the Oromo Community of Minnesota, headquartered in St. Paul. The group estimates that up to 40,000 Oromo people are living in Minnesota, but the state demographer’s office puts that number closer to 8,500.



NPR: Kojo Nnamni Show: Olympic Marathon medalist faces persecution in Ethiopia- And he is not one August 28, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Athletic nation.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist




Olympic Marathon Medalist Faces Persecution In Ethiopia –And He’s Not The Only One


Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7


In recent years, Ethiopia has seen nationwide protests sparked by land rights issues and tension between the Oromos, its largest ethnic group, and the country’s government and ruling classes. While many in D.C.’s local Ethiopian diaspora have been following the unrest, a recent act of protest at the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon finish line brought the issue to an international stage. We talk with an Ethiopian blogger living in exile in the D.C. region and a U.S. journalist who faced challenges reporting from Ethiopia about the media landscape in the country and how censorship there affects perspectives in communities around the world, including those in Washington.


  • Soliyana Shimeles founding member, Zone9 bloggers; human rights expert, Ethiopia Human Rights Project
  • Fred de Sam Lazaro Correspondent, PBS NewsHour; Executive Director, Undertold Stories Project