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W&L Law Academic Fellow Henok Gabisa Comments on Olympic Marathon Protest

The Olympic marathon is often filled with drama, but it rarely rises to the geopolitical realm. However, when Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia took second in Rio with his wrists crossed over his head, he brought the plight of Ethiopia’s Oromo people to the world stage.

The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and have been dislocated and persecuted by the central government for many years. Henok Gabisa, a visiting academic fellow at Washington and Lee University School of Law who is from Ethiopia, explained that when Lilesa made the gesture showing solidarity with the Oromo, he put his life in danger.

“Given that he is from Oromo, the most targeted and marginalized group of people in Ethiopia in economic and political realm, he is likely to be taken by government security force at the Addis Ababa airport upon arrival,” Gabisa said in an interview with the LA Times.

Gabisa is now part of a legal team working on assisting Lilesa’s transition and to protect his wife and family, who remain in Ethiopia.

In addition to the LA Times article, Gabisa has commented on this situation for the BBC and in a commentary in The Guardian.