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Mo Farah has revealed that he was brought into the UK illegally when he was a child and forced to do housework and look after children against his will.
The Team GB athlete told his story in a BBC and Red Bull documentary, The Real Mo Farah, which airs on BBC One and iPlayer on Wednesday 13 July. In the documentary, Farah also says that he was given the name Mohamed Farah when he was on his journey to the UK, and that he was told to forget his actual name, which is Hussein Abdi Kahin, and details about his family.
This was after he had been taken from his home in Somaliland to live with a family in Djibouti. A woman, whom he did not know, then flew him to the UK, where his name and family details were changed. Once in Hounslow, London, Farah says that the woman tore up the paper that contained his family’s contact details.
‘Right in front of me, she ripped it up and put it in the bin. At that moment, I knew I was in trouble,’ he says. She also said that if he ever wanted to see his family again, he must not say a word about what had happened.
For the first few years he was in England, Farah was forced to stay in a house doing domestic work and looking after children. ‘If I wanted food in my mouth, my job was to look after those kids,’ he says. ‘Shower them, cook for them, clean for them.’ Aged 12, he was finally allowed to go to school, where he was told to say he was a Somalian refugee.
It was at this point that his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson, saw how the young boy came alive when doing athletics. ‘The only language he seemed to understand was the language of PE and sport,’ Watkinson says.
Farah slowly built a bond of trust with his PE teacher, and eventually told him the real story. This led Watkinson to contact social services, and the teacher then assisted with Farah getting fostered by a Somali family. At that point, Mo says, he felt like ‘a lot of stuff was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like me. That's when Mo came out – the real Mo.’
Farah says that he is telling his story in order to challenge perceptions of people trafficking and slavery. ‘I had no idea there were so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did,’ he says. ‘It just shows how lucky I was.’
Since telling his story, a number of athletes have praised his strength and labelled him an inspiration, including Olympian and commentator Brendan Foster, who said he ‘absolutely staggered’ by the news. ‘He hasn’t lied to anybody, but imagine having to bury that and live with that story. My admiration for Mo has gone up.’
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