“I think what I did is good so far because the government has shut off the people’s voices and no one knows about the fight,” Feyisa Lilesa said.
By Rick Maese (The Washington Post) |
Marathoner Feyisa Lilesa packed his bags and left his wife and two children last month, with plans to post a blazing fast time at the Summer Olympics, earn a spot on the medal podium, bring attention to the plight of his people — and most likely never be able to return home.
“It was very hard to say good-bye,” said the Ethiopian long-distance runner, “but I also knew that it’s not harder than what people are going through in my country.”
Lilesa indeed won silver at the Rio de Janeiro Games and made international headlines when he approached the finish line with his wrists crossed, flashing an “X” symbol that the world soon learned was a bold protest against the treatment of his people by Ethiopian government. He has lived in limbo since, convinced that if he returned to Ethiopia he would be imprisoned or possibly killed.
After nearly three weeks of uncertainty, living covertly in a Rio hotel room, the 26-year-old finally left Brazil and arrived in Washington last week, a temporary stop en route to a new life, one in which he’s indefinitely separated from his family, constantly worried for their safety and thrust onto a global stage as a visible lightning rod for political dissent back in his native country.
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