Ethiopia’s Olympic Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa has been named one of the top 100 global thinkers by the influential Washington based Foreign Policy magazine. The list includes Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel, and Facebook Founder Mark Zukerburg and his wife among others.
Feysa is nominated under the Challengers, for individuals who stand up to challenge those in power.
Given the fact that the Olympic Charter bans political propaganda, demonstrations are a rarity at the games. Nevertheless, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa snubbed the rulebook in order to call attention to the brutal actions of his country’s security forces. As the marathoner approached the finish line in second place, he crossed his arms over his head—an attention-grabbing gesture to show solidarity with his Oromo tribe. In the weeks before the race, the Ethiopian government had cracked down on protests by the embattled indigenous group and killed dozens. “If I would’ve taken my medal and went back to Ethiopia, that would’ve been the biggest regret of my life,” Lilesa, who hasn’t yet returned home, told the Associated Press. “I wanted to be a voice for a story that wasn’t getting any coverage.”
Since widespread protests began in Ethiopia last year, hundreds of people have been killed, thousands injured, tens of thousands arrested, and hundreds disappeared, according to Human Rights Watch.
In August, Ethiopian runner Ebisa Ejigu used Lilesa’s move while crossing the finish line to win the Quebec City Marathon.
The Global Thinkers honored here are proof that, as a society’s pillars falter, individuals step in to bear the weight. The honorees demonstrated how private citizens can ease the suffering of others. They subverted traditional power structures to craft solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems. They pledged personal wealth to create a safer, healthier future for all.
The 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 are emblematic of our innate desire to confront pessimism rather than surrender to despair, to challenge ugliness rather than resign to failure. In a moment of great uncertainty, they should serve as reminders that humanity has the power to hold leaders to account, to defy corrupt regimes, and to provide one another opportunity and solace when states cannot. They live by the scriptural exhortation that Hillary Clinton quoted in her concession speech, and which all those who believe in progress should take to heart: “Let us not grow weary.”” The paper wrote about its Global Thinks list