Olympic great distance runner Mo Farah has revealed that his real name is Hussein Abdi Kahn. He had been illegally trafficked to Britain at the age of eight or nine from Djibouti by a woman he had never met, given the name Mohamed Farah, and then forced to attend to another family’s children, he tells a BBC TV documentary “The Real Mo Farah”, to be aired tomorrow.
The British track and field athlete who completed the 5 000 metre to 10 000 metre double at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, and was the first to win four Olympic golds, had previously said he fled to the UK with his parents as refugees from Somalia.
“The truth is I’m not who you think I am,” says Farah. “Most people know me as Mo Farah, but it’s not my name or it’s not the reality.”
Shockingly, the 39-year-old now states that his parents had in fact never been to the UK. As a result of civil unrest in Somalia, his father was killed and his mother, along with his two brothers, now live in the internationally unrecognised breakaway state of Somaliland.
Farah was flown to the UK and given the name Mohamed Farah by an unfamiliar woman under the impression that he was being taken to live with relatives and that the name change was necessary as it stood on the fake travel documents they used to travel.
Upon arrival, however, the woman ripped up the paper containing his relatives’ contact details and threw it in the bin. Farah says that it was at that moment that he knew he was in trouble.
He was then forced to do housework and childcare for an unfamiliar family and threatened to silence with: “If you ever want to see your family again, don’t say anything.”
He says that locking himself in the bathroom and crying was often his only solace – until he discovered athletics. It was athletics that enabled him to escape, he added.
It was his physical education teacher, Alan Watkinson, who notices how the youngster’s mood would change on the running track. Farah eventually revealed his story to Watkinson who then informed local authorities and applied for his British citizenship.
On 25 July 2000, Mohamed Farah was recognised as a British Citizen.
Now, his children’s innocent curiosity about his life story and a desire to “feel normal” is what has given him the motivation to finally speak out about his past.
“I’ve been keeping [the story] for so long, it’s been difficult because you don’t want to face it and often my kids ask questions, ‘Dad, how come this?’ And you’ve always got an answer for everything, but you haven’t got an answer for that,” he says.