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Ethiopian Runner Urges US to Push for Human Rights in His Country


Feyisa Lelisa makes remarks in Washington, D.C., in September, 2016. The Olympic silver medalist from Ethiopia challenged Congress to recognize more freedoms are possible in his home country.

Feyisa Lelisa makes remarks in Washington, D.C., in September, 2016. The Olympic silver medalist from Ethiopia challenged Congress to recognize more freedoms are possible in his home country.

Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lelisa is urging the United States Congress to take action in support of Ethiopians protesting against their government.

Lelisa won the silver medal in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last month. He spoke to reporters earlier this week during a visit to Washington, D.C.

He said that the Ethiopian people are “peace-loving, but they have been denied peace for a very long time.” The protesters “are calling for the freedom, (and) democracy that you have here.” He called on the U.S. government to urge the Ethiopian government to make sure that democracy prevails in Ethiopia.

Feyisa Lelisa gained attention throughout the world during the men’s marathon at the Rio Games. He crossed his wrists as a sign of protest at the end of the race, near the finish line.

Lelisa is Oromo and made the sign in support of Oromo protests. Those protests have been taking place in Ethiopia since last November. The demonstrators are raising issues such as land rights and representation in the government.

Since Lelisa crossed his wrists at the race in Rio, other runners have copied this move.

Ebisa Ejigu crossed his arms in the Quebec City Marathon in Canada. Tamiru Demisse is a member of the Ethiopian team at the Paralympics in Rio. He crossed his arms as he won a silver medal in the men’s 1,500 meter race for runners with poor or limited eyesight.

Ebisa Ejigu crosses the finish line of the Quebec City Marathon in Canada. Ejigu borrowed the crossed arm protest from Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lelisa.

Ebisa Ejigu crosses the finish line of the Quebec City Marathon in Canada. Ejigu borrowed the crossed arm protest from Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lelisa.

Three U.S. lawmakers presented a measure called House Resolution 861 during Lelisa’s press conference.

The three -- Chris Smith, Keith Ellison and Mike Coffman – say the resolution is called “Supporting human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

The resolution calls on the Ethiopian government to end the use of excessive force by security forces. It urges the government to hold security forces responsible for wrongdoing.

The resolution also calls on the government to investigate the killings and violence during protests in the Oromia and Amhara areas of Ethiopia.

Eleven civil society organizations have signed the measure.

Lelisa is visiting the United States on a temporary visa. He said he was not seeking asylum.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Salem Solomon wrote this story for VOANews.com. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

medaln. a piece of metal often in the form of a coin with designs and words in honor of a special event, a person or an achievement

marathonn. a running race that is about 42 kilometers long

paralympicn. a series of international contests for athletes with disabilities

prevails – v. to defeat an opponent, especially in a long conflict or competition

encouraging – v. making something more hopeful, more appealing or likely to happen

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