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Ethiopian Paralympic Silver Medalist makes Protest Gesture Against Oppressive Regime as he Crosses the Finish line

Ethiopian Paralympic runner Tamiru Demisse has become the third Ethiopian athlete to stage a political protest in a period of a month. The runner crossed his arms above his head as he passed the finish line in the Men’s 1500m race in Rio.

Demisse finished second in the T13 1500m race for the visually impaired runners behind Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka who took home the gold. Kenya’s Henry Kirwa came in third to take the bronze. All the three medalists in the race surprisingly had faster times than the 1500m reigning Olympic Champion America’s Matthew Centrowitz Jr’s 3:50:00.


Crossing arms is a sign of protest from the people of the Oromo Ethnicity against the unfair government treatment and oppression they have been going through.

The protests were sparked after the government began expanding the capitals territory threatening parts of Oromia and the peoples land rights. Protesters claim the expansion of these boundaries would see Oromo farmers forcefully evicted.

Human rights Watch has put estimates of the dead to more than 500 since the government started brutal crackdowns on political protests. Almost 100 people were killed in august when security forces used live bullets in the Amhara and Oromia regions.


Ethiopians crossing their hands in protest (Photo by Africa News)

The runner joins country mate Lelesa who had to seek asylum in fear of prosecution after he made the protest gesture in the Olympics. Feyisa explained the protest after the Olympics saying it was because the government killing of the Oromo people, “killing our people” to use his exact words.

Days after Feyisa, another Ethiopian marathoner Ebisa Ejigu, made headlines crossing his hands above his head as he race to victory in the Quebec City Marathon in Canada.

Demisse, 22 said he didn’t want to return to Ethiopia but wanted to go to the USA. Talking to a Brazilian Television network Globo, he said,

“If I go back, I’m a dead man,”

“I am totally against what they are doing in Ethiopia, [and I’m] against the government”

He’s following the example of Feyisa who generated so much sympathy that a crowd funding generated more than $150,000 to support for his family and legal costs to process his asylum to the United States of America.


Featured Photo: Tamiru Demisse crossing his hands in protest against the killings of Omoro people (photo from The Independent)

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