Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah announced on Wednesday that he was trafficked from Somalia to Britain as a child and forced to work as a domestic slave for a London family.
He also revealed that Mo Farah is not his real name.
“Most people know me as Mo Farah,” he told the BBC. “But that’s not my name or it’s not reality. The real story is that I was born Hussein Abdi Kahin in Somaliland north of Somalia.”
Farah made the reveal for a BBC documentary due to air on Wednesday. BBC released clips and quotes from the documentary on Monday.
Farah previously said he was brought to the UK from Somalia as a child along with his parents. He told the BBC that his parents never lived in Britain and that his father was killed in the Civil War when he was four. His mother and two brothers remain in Somaliland, a self-proclaimed state bordering Somalia on the east coast of Africa.
When he was eight or nine years old he said he was taken away from home to stay with family in Djibouti and was eventually taken to the UK by a strange woman who told him he would be staying with relatives . Instead, he was given another child’s name – Mohamed Farah – and forged travel documents.
When he arrived in the UK, he said the woman took him to her home in London and told him to do housework, including childcare, “if I wanted food in my mouth”. Per Farah, she told him not to say anything about the arrangement “if you ever want to see your family again.”
“For years I just blanked it out,” Farah, now 39, told the BBC. “But you can only hide it for so long.”
Farah was finally allowed to attend school at the age of 12, where his former tutor told BBC he arrived an “emotionally and culturally alienated” child. He developed a love of sport in physical education classes and his physical education teacher Alan Watkinson ensured he was fostered by a Somali family, according to the BBC.
The identity of the woman who was dealing with Farah was not revealed in the clips. It is not clear what consequences she faced.
Farah’s talent on the track was evident as a teenager and he has been one of the world’s top long-distance runners ever since. In 2000 he received British citizenship. He represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in London in 2012 and again in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He won four gold medals, two each in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. From 2011 to 2017 he won six world championships and two silver medals over the same distances. In 2017 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
He told the BBC that his talent and love of running saved him from his former life.
“What really saved me, what made me different, was that I could run.”