LONDON — Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah says he was illegally brought to the U.K. as a young boy and forced to care for other children before he escaped a life of servitude through running.
Farah, in a documentary claims his true identity is Hussein Abdi Kahin. He also says that he was taken form Djibouti, an East African country. Red Bull Studios produced Farah’s film, which tells his story about being trafficked. It will be broadcast by BBC on Wednesday.
The athlete says he was 8 or 9 years old when a woman he didn’t know brought him to Britain using fake travel documents that included his picture alongside the name Mohammed Farah, the BBC reported.
Farah claimed that Farah was taken to an apartment by a woman in London and forced him to look after her children. He wasn’t allowed to go to school until he was 12.
“I wasn’t treated as part of the family…,” Farah says in the documentary. “If I wanted food in my mouth, my job was to look after those kids — shower them, cook for them, clean for them.”
Farah represented Britain at the three Olympic Games and won the gold medal in the 10,000 and 5,000 meter runs, at the London Olympics 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.
He had previously stated that he fled Somalia to seek refuge in Britain.
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The documentary claims Farah says that Farah lost his father to gunfire while he was four years old. His mother and his two brothers reside on the Somaliland family farm, which is an independent region in Somalia. It’s not recognized internationally.
Farah claims that his life changed after he was allowed to go to school. A teacher who was interviewed for the documentary recalled a 12-year-old boy who appeared “unkempt and uncared for,” was “emotionally and culturally alienated” and spoke little English.
He began to flourish on the track, and eventually shared his story with a teacher of physical education. Local officials contacted the teacher and arranged to have him placed in foster care by a Somalian family.
“I still missed my real family, but from that moment everything got better,” Farah said. “I felt like a lot of stuff was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like me.”
Farah claimed that he was afraid of being deported because he talked about his childhood. He decided to tell his story to publicize and challenge people’s perceptions of human trafficking, he said.
“I had no idea there was so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did,” he said. “It just shows how lucky I was.”
Farah received U.K. citizenship as a child in 2000. He represented Britain at the Olympics of 2008, 2012, and 2016. Queen Elizabeth II made him a knight in 2017.
An immigration lawyer told the program that there was little risk of the government revoking Farah’s citizenship because he was trafficked as a child. The U.K.’s Home Office did not immediately respond to comment from The Associated Press.
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Home Office guidance makes clear that the agency assumes a child is not complicit in gaining citizenship by deception, stating: “If the person was a child at the time the fraud, false representation or concealment of material fact was perpetrated, the caseworker should assume that they were not complicit in any deception by their parent or guardian.”
Farah would have been mistaken if he believed that the country would abandon him following his revelations. Celebrities, politicians and sports stars all rushed to lend their support.
Usain Bolt, an eight-time Olympic champion sprinter from Jamaica, posted three emojis of folded hands – sometimes referred to as “prayer hands” – on Farah’s Instagram page. Andrew Butchart, Farah’s teammate in 2016 and who finished sixth in the 5,000 meters in Rio, posted “Much love” and “very proud” along with a heart emoji.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan praised Farah’s courage in coming forward.
“Everything Sir Mo has survived proves he’s not only one of our greatest Olympians but a truly great Briton,’’ Khan said on Twitter “@Mo Farah thank you for sharing your story & shining a spotlight on these awful crimes. We must build a future where these tragic events are never repeated.”
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