Ethiopian marathoner may have put his life in danger with this gesture

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Ethiopian Marathoner Put His Life in Danger With One Gesture
​​​​​​

Like many other Olympic athletes have in the past, Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa made a gesture when he crossed the finish line in Rio Sunday night.

But simply making that sign with his arms could have cost the silver medalist his freedom or even his life if he returns home.

SEE ALSO: Rio sends off rocky yet rousing Games with tropical tribute

He told reporters after the race: "I was protesting for my people. ... If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed, maybe they will put me in prison."

See, crossing your arms over your head like Lilesa did is a sign used by members of his Oromo tribe to protest the Ethiopian government.

ATHLETICS-OLY-2016-RIO(Photo via Getty)

Tensions between the Oromo and the government have been on the rise since last November, when the government announced plans to reallocate Oromo farmland for development.

The announcement sparked intense protests across the nation that lasted for months.

Officials scrapped the idea back in January, but demonstrations flared up once again in recent weeks over protesters who are still being detained.

And according to a Human Rights Watch report, the government is using violence to stop the protests. The group says more than 400 people have been killed and thousands more injured.

Because of violence like that, Lilesa says he can't return to Ethiopia after the Olympics. He says he might stay in Brazil or go to Kenya or the U.S. if he can.

It's unclear if his post-race gesture will affect his big win in Rio. The Olympics committee has stripped athletes of their medals over political statements in the past.

Related: See some of the best photos from the Rio Olympics:

42 PHOTOS
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
See Gallery
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania shoots over Marcus Vinicius Marquinhos of Brazil during a Men's preliminary round basketball game between Brazil and Lithuania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Segun Toriola of Nigeria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Koki Niwa of Japan on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Bret Bonanni #10 of United States shoots the ball against Croatia during the Men's Water Polo Preliminary Round - Group B match between the United States of America and Croatia at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Anna Marton of Hungary, right, fences against Manon Brunet of France during women's saber individual fencing competition in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Russia's Middle Khamukov Petr is punched by Venezuela's Albert Ramon Ramirez during a men's light heavyweight 81-kg preliminary boxing match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu competes in a women's 100-meter backstroke heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Laura Giombini of Italy (R) reacts during the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool D match against Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Robert Gardos of Austria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei competes during the Women's 53kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Italy's Pietro Zucchetti, left, and teammate Ruggero Tita attend a training session of the 49er Men event during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Argentina's Federico Pizarro tries to score a penalty during the men's preliminary handball match between Denmark and Argentina at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Belgium's Laura Waem performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's qualification at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
2016 Rio Olympics - Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Beach Volleyball Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. Doaa Elghobashy (EGY) of Egypt and Kira Walkenhorst (GER) of Germany compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Lilly King of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Breaststroke Final on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
France's Rudy Gobert, right, fights for a rebound with China's Zhou Qi (15) and Yi Jianlian, rear, during a basketball game at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
United States' Katie Ledecky competes in a semifinal of the women's 200-meter freestyle during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Norway's Sanna Solberg tries to score past Spain's goalkeeper Darly Zoqbi during the women's preliminary handball match between Spain and Norway at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Russia's Ekaterina Birlova casts a shadow on the sand as she serves to Poland during a women's beach volleyball match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Germany's Karin Schnaase stretches during a badminton training session at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Ning Ding of China in action during the Womens Table Tennis Singles Final match against Li Xiaoxia of China at Rio Centro onn August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Axel Augis of France competes on the horizontal bar during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Members of team Cuba attempt to block a ball spiked by Iran's H. Milad Ebadipour Ghara during a men's preliminary volleyball match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
France's Lauren Rembi reacts after losing to Russia in a women's epee team fencing quarterfinal competition at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro of Italy compete in the Women's Duets Synchronised Swimming Free Routine Preliminary Round on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Jennifer Oeser of Germany competes in the Women's Heptathlon Long Jump on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Matthew Glaetzer of Australia competes in the Men's Sprint Qualifying on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
United States' Gabrielle Douglas performs on the uneven bars during the artistic gymnastics women's apparatus final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Bahamas' Shaunae Miller, left, beats United States' Allyson Felix, second right, to win the women's 400-meter final during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Athletes compete in a men's 400-meter hurdles semifinal during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Russia's Darya Klishina makes an attempt in the women's long jump qualification during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Silver medalist Nia Ali (L) and gold medalist Brianna Rollins of the United States celebrate after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Canada's Andre De Grasse, left, and Jamaica's Usain Bolt smile at each other in a men's 200-meter semifinal, during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Russia compete during the ribbon rotation 1 in the group all-round qualification round at the at Rio Olympic Arena on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: The riders compete during the Men's semi final 2 on day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic BMX Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Yauheni Karaliou of Belarus competes during the Diving Men's 10m Platform Preliminary on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Read Full Story

From Our Partners