It’s not uncommon to hear about people being smuggled abroad under false identification, but national treasure Sir Mo Farah’s revelation that this happened to him has stunned fans.
Sir Mo is one of Britain’s best-loved sports stars, but in a BBC documentary airing this week, he’ll explain how he isn’t really Mo Farah and was given the false identity when he was trafficked to the UK aged just nine.
Over the years, Mo has gone to great lengths to hide the truth about his heartbreaking story, sharing a version of events that are not true.
Take a look back at the athlete’s life to see how the Olympic star, whose real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin, hid the true story of his childhood.
Who is Sir Mohamed Muktar Jama Farah?
Mo is a four-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion British distance runner who has had a terrific sporting career since the age of 14.
In previous interviews, Mo has explained how a civil war broke out in Somalia which drove British-born Muktar Farah and his Somali wife to flee Mogadishu home with their six children which included Mo Farah and his twin brother, Hassan.
The twin brothers and their sister are said to have gone on to live with a grandmother in neighbouring Djibouti. At around eight years old, he was said to have been separated from Hassan and sent with two younger brothers to join their father in London.
But this has all turned out to be false.
In a BBC documentary set to air at 9pm on Wednesday 13 July, Mo reveals that around age nine he was taken from an East African country by a woman he had never met, had his real name changed and was forced to work as a child servant.
In the stunning revelations, the 39-year-old says his parents have never been to the UK — his father was killed in civil unrest in Somalia when Farah was four years old. His mother and two brothers live in the breakaway state of Somaliland, which is not internationally recognised.
Life in the UK at age nine
While most children are enrolled in education at an early age, Mo did not start school in the UK until age 12 when he enrolled in Year 7 at Feltham Community College. And at the age of 14, he began making a name for himself as an athlete after he was steered toward running by his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson.
The star spent three years of his childhood in a flat in Hounslow, west London with no way of contacting his relatives. He told the BBC that no food could pass his lips unless he cleaned and did childcare. The Team GB athlete said he would lock himself inside a bathroom and cry – and was told that if he wanted to see his family again not to say anything.
He 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”.
Outside of running
As a world-renowned sportsman with life, many could only dream of, how was he able to conceal so much of his past? A casual browse on his social media platforms will show that outside of running, he’s also a family man.
He met his wife Tania whom he married in 2010 in a ceremony in Richmond. The couple has four children having welcomed twin girls in 2012, named Aisha and Amani, and welcomed a son who they called Hussein in 2015. Tania has a daughter, Rhianna, from a previous relationship, but whom the athlete also considers as his child.
And if he’s not enjoying family life, he’s taking part in hit ITV reality shows such as I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!.
Or lending a helping hand through his Mo Farah Foundation which provides life-saving aid to some of the millions affected by the drought and famine in East Africa, particularly Somalia and provides life-inspiring projects for the public in the UK.
Why has he chosen to tell his truth?
It’s clear to see why the star chose to keep his life of being exploited and trafficked as a child a secret and instead focus on giving back to the community and the people affected by civil unrest.
Explaining why he’s now ready to speak out, he told the BBC of his mission to challenge public perceptions of trafficking and slavery.
“I had no idea there was so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did. It just shows how lucky I was. What really saved me, what made me different, was that I could run,” he added.
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