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Friday, August 19, 2022

Athletics icon Mo Farah reveals real past: victim of human smuggling

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Olympic track and field champion Sir Mo Farah has made shocking revelations about his life story. In the BBC documentary The Real Mo Farah he tells for the first time that as a child he became a victim of people smuggling. At the age of 8 or 9, he was illegally brought from Djibouti in East Africa to the United Kingdom. His real name is also not Mo Farah, but Hussein Abdi Kahin. “I’m not who you think I am.”

Mo Farah tells that he has long suppressed and kept the truth about his childhood to himself, but that is no longer the case. The 39-year-old runner was brought to London as a child by an unknown woman with the promise that he would live there with relatives. She also gave him the name Mohamed Farah, which was on a false travel document.

Arriving in London, however, it turned out that Mo was forced to do domestic work for a family and look after other children. The piece of paper containing his family’s contact details was torn by the woman before his eyes. “That’s when I knew I was in trouble,” Mo said in the documentary. “She said, ‘If you ever want to see your family again, don’t tell anyone.”

When he was allowed to go to school two years later at the age of twelve, Mo was introduced there as a Somali refugee. At the time, according to an old mentor, he was an “unkempt and neglected child” who spoke almost no English and was “emotionally and culturally alienated” .

In the end, it was his gym teacher who helped Mo escape the family. After the boy told him his real story in confidence, the teacher arranged for him to be placed with a Somali family. “I still missed my real family, but from then on everything got better,” said Mo.

He developed into a top athlete and was eventually given British nationality in 2000 under his assumed name. In 2012 and 2016 Mo won gold at the Olympics in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He also became the world champion six times in those distances.

Mo used to say that he had fled Somalia with his parents, but in reality, his father had been killed in the Somali civil war years before Mo came to London. His mother and brothers stayed behind in Somaliland, Mo was then sent to Djibouti.

With these revelations, which the athlete made at the behest of his children, Mo Farah wants to draw more attention to human trafficking and slavery. “I had no idea there are so many people who have gone through exactly the same thing as me. That shows how lucky I have been. What saved me and what makes me different is simply that I could run.”

The Real Mo Farah comes out tomorrow on the BBC.

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