fbpx

Olympic star Mo Farah reveals true identity

BY: BBC
Mo Farah of Great Britain celebrates victory in the men's  5000m final during the 2012 London Olympics
Mo Farah of Great Britain celebrates victory in the men's 5000m final during the 2012 London Olympics

Sir Mo Farah, who was brought to the United Kingdom (UK) illegally as a child, has revealed his true identity, saying, he was trafficked illegally to the UK by an unknown woman who changed his name and forced him to work as a domestic servant.

The Olympic star told the BBC he was given the name Mohamed Farah by those who flew him over from Djibouti. His real name was Hussein Abdi Kahin. Having been flown from the East African country aged nine by a woman he had never met. He was made to look after another family's children, he says.

The long-distance runner has previously said he came to the UK from Somalia with his parents as a refugee.But in a documentary by the BBC and Red Bull Studios, seen by BBC News, he revealed that his parents have never been to the UK - explaining that his mother and two brothers live on their family farm in the breakaway state of Somaliland.

He also revealed that his father, Abdi, was killed by stray gunfire when he ( Sir Mo) was only four years old, in civil violence in Somalia. This was after Somaliland had declared independence in 1991, but was not internationally recognised.

Sir Mo says he was about eight or nine years old when he was taken from home to stay with a family in Djibouti but instead he was flown over to the UK by a woman he had never met and wasn't related to.

She told him he was being taken to Europe to live with relatives - something he says he was "excited" about. "I'd never been on a plane before," he says. According to Mo Farah, the woman told him to say his name was Mohamed, adding that she had fake travel documents with her that showed his photo next to the name "Mohamed Farah".

When they arrived in the UK, the woman took him to her flat in Hounslow, West London, and took a piece of paper off him that had his relatives' contact details. "Right in front of me, she ripped it up and put it in the bin, and at that moment, I knew I was in trouble," he recalled.

Sir Mo says he had to do housework and childcare "if I wanted food in my mouth". He says the woman told him: "If you ever want to see your family again, don't say anything, so often, I would just lock myself in the bathroom and cry," he says.
“For the first few years, the family didn't allow me to attend school regularly, but when I was about 11, I was enrolled in Year 7 at Feltham Community College”.

When contacted, his old form tutor, Sarah Rennie, told the BBC that he came to school "unkempt and uncared for", and he also spoke very little English and was an "emotionally and culturally alienated" child.

She says the people who said they were his parents didn't attend any parents' evenings meetings. Sir Mo's PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, however, noticed a transformation in the young boy when he hit the athletics track. "The only language he seemed to understand was the language of PE and sport," he says.

Sir Mo says sport was a lifeline for him as "the only thing I could do to get away from this [living situation] was to get out and run". He eventually confided in Mr Watkinson about his true identity, his background, and the family he was being forced to work for, so the PE teacher contacted social services and helped Sir Mo to be fostered by another Somali family."

I still missed my real family, but from that moment everything got better," Sir Mo says. "I felt like a lot of stuff was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like me. That's when Mo came out when he won gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Sir Mo began making a name for himself as an athlete and aged 14 he was invited to compete for English schools at a race in Latvia - but he didn't have any travel documents so Mr Watkinson helped him apply for British citizenship under the name Mohamed Farah, which was granted in July 2000.

In the documentary, barrister Allan Briddock tells Sir Mo his nationality was technically "obtained by fraud or misrepresentations". Legally, the government can remove a person's British nationality if their citizenship was obtained through fraud. But a Home Office official told BBC News it would not take action over Sir Mo's nationality, as it was assumed a child was not complicit when citizenship was gained by deception.

As his profile grew in the Somali community, a woman approached him in a London restaurant and gave him a tape which contained a recorded message for Sir Mo from someone he had not heard from in a long time - his mother, Aisha.

"It wasn't just a tape," Sir Mo says. "It was more of a voice - and then it was singing sad songs for me, like poems or like traditional song, you know. And I would listen to it for days, weeks."The side of the tape had a phone number on it, asking him to call but adding: "If this is a bother or causing you trouble, don't - just leave it - you don't have to contact me."

"I'm going, 'Of course I want to contact you,'" Sir Mo says. "When I heard him, I felt like throwing the phone on the floor and being transported to him from all the joy I felt," Aisha says. "The excitement and joy of getting a response from him made me forget everything that happened."

In the documentary, Sir Mo took his son, whom he named Hussein, to Somaliland to meet Aisha and his two brothers. "Never in my life did I think I would see you or your children alive," she tells Sir Mo. "We were living in a place with nothing, no cattle and destroyed land. We all thought we were dying. 'Boom, boom, boom,' was all we heard. I sent you away because of the war. I sent you off to your uncle in Djibouti ,so you could have something.

"When Sir Mo asks Aisha who decided he would be taken from Djibouti to the UK, she says: "No-one told me. I lost contact with you. We didn't have phones, roads or anything. There was nothing here. The land was devastated."

“Running 'saved me.'” Sir Mo says he wants to tell his story to challenge public perceptions of trafficking and slavery."I had no idea there were so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did. It just shows how lucky I was," he says.

"What really saved me, what made me different, was that I could run."The woman who brought Sir Mo to London has been approached by the BBC for comment, but has not responded. However since the documentary was broadcast on July 13, relatives have defended her, saying that a lot of people brought children who were not their own from Somaliland to Europe for a better life and that it was common in their culture for children to do household work.

BBC