A crowdfunding initiative to support Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa, the Olympic men’s marathon silver medallist, who made a brave gesture during celebration in solidarity with Oromo protesters is gathering momentum. The fundraising, which twice exceeded revised targets set a new $100,000 target and with just over 24 hours, $86,150 has been raised.
In a brave political gesture, Lilesa raised and crossed his arms in celebration as he crossed the finish line, a symbol of protest against the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on political dissent.
The athlete faces an uncertain future, and says he fears for his safety, despite assurances from Ethiopian authorities that he will not be jailed.
The fundraising was started by Solomon Ungashe who wrote on Facebook that the funds will go towards supporting the athlete “resettling in a new country takes”.
Lilesa has been hailed by the campaign for his “extra-ordinary heroism by becoming an international symbol for #OromoProtests and Ethiopian Freedom Movement”.
According to Ungashe, who is part of the team which is administering the campaign, two members of the support team are now in Rio de Janeiro to meet with Lelisa to provide the support he needs.
The support team includes Ethiopians living in the diaspora in various countries such as the United States of America, Australia and the Netherlands.