Meet the man who broke into the track after 5,000 women in 2022 worlds

Meet the man who broke into the track after 5,000 women in 2022 worlds

Written by Jonathan Gault
23 July 2022

Eugene, Raw. – Seconds after Ethiopia Gudav Tsegae Won his first outdoor world title in the 5,000m at the 2022 World Championships in Athletics at Hayward Field, a bearded man in dark blue shorts and a white plaid shirt under his chest ran onto the track, lifting Tsegae and his Ethiopian teammate in fifth. Letesenbet Gidey After a short chase, he was caught by security and taken off the track.

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It was a strange moment if you weren’t following what has been going on in Ethiopia over the past year and a half. If you have, you may have noticed the red and yellow flag that the invaders carried with them as the flag of the Tigray region in Ethiopia, which was the epicenter of a brutal conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government. . There were a number of Tigray flags in the stands Saturday night, particularly on the curve near the start of the 5,000m as both Tsegai and Gedi (who won the 10,000m earlier in these tournaments) came from the area.

The conflict in Tigray began in November 2020 when Tigray forces attacked an Ethiopian military base in the area, and subsequently the Ethiopian Prime Minister. Abi Ahmed Troops sent in response. According to Human Rights Watch, a number of hospitals, schools, factories and businesses in the area have been damaged or destroyed, with more than two million people forced to flee their homes. Some of those who remained found themselves deprived of basic resources such as food and electricity. After the race, the Tigrai_TV account said that GD’s parents couldn’t see her During the past two years.

After Tsegay’s victory, about two dozen protesters marched around Hayward Square carrying Tigray flags, posters and T-shirts reading “Free Tigray” and “Tigray Country” and chanting phrases such as “Stop Tigray Genocide”. In the back of this package LetsRun found the guy who broke into the track less than an hour ago. He said his name Merg MekonnenHe is 40 years old, and he is from the Tigray region, but now lives in Texas.

Mekonen said he planned to come see Tsegay and Gidey run tonight but he didn’t plan to run on the track. After Tsegai won, he said he felt emotional and needed to do something.

“I just couldn’t control it,” Mekonnen said.

Mekonnen said his goal is to raise global awareness of what is happening right now in the Tigray region.

“I tried to be a voice for the voiceless,” Mekonnen said. “I want people to know that there is a genocide happening right now when we speak and people can’t reach it. We can’t see our family.”

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For an athlete like Tsegae or Gedi, speaking out poses risks not only to themselves, but to their families and loved ones back home, which is one reason Mekonnen felt he needed to do something.

“Even athletes can’t see or talk to their families,” Mekonnen said. “I try to be a voice for the athletes and for the people.”

Jedi did not speak to the media after the race. Tsegai was asked about her feelings about the Mekonnen boycott of her celebrations, but the Ethiopian team’s staff put her away before she could respond.

Mekonnen said he was arrested, but not arrested and allowed to return to the stadium within an hour; He was walking around as part of the Tigray protests as the roar of the women’s 4x100m relay final echoed around the field.

“They held me and were actually nice and asked me why I did this,” Mekonnen said. “…they told me not to do it again and they let me go.”

The conflict in Ethiopia is complex. Both sides are accused of atrocities. last year , The New York Times The Ethiopian Defense Forces were reported to have been “accused of abuses including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and attacks on refugees,” while Human Rights Watch reported that Tigrayan forces executed 49 civilians in a two-week period last summer.

When Mekonnen was dragged off the track, Tsegay would start her victory lap with the red, yellow and green Ethiopia flag around her shoulders. At that moment, Mekonnen experienced mixed feelings.

“It feels different because Ethiopia is starving us right now — we, the people who are building Ethiopia,” Mekonnen said. “There is no Ethiopia without Tigray. It starts from Tigray. The nation we are building, when they do to us this is horrible. It is really horrible. It feels bad. I can’t explain… There is no Ethiopia without Tigray. Ethiopia is Tigray. Tigray is Ethiopia. Now they are besieging us and starving us.”

protest video

Full interview with Mearg Mekonen


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