Sir Mo Farah’s twin admits it felt ‘like I’d lost the other half of myself’ when the future Olympic champion was taken to the UK
- Sir Mo’s twin Hassan believed he would follow him to the UK when Mo left aged 8
- The identical twins lost their father when they were four and lived in poverty
- The twins weren’t reunited until 2004, once Sir Mo had begun his running career
On a sweltering morning in the noisy African city of Djibouti eight-year-old Hassan Kahin was in tears.
His identical twin brother Hussein – his closest companion – had disappeared in the night, bundled into a taxi with strangers and shipped off for a new life in a foreign country.
The boys had already survived a tough childhood, sent away from their mother and siblings in war-torn Somalia across the border. They had learnt to cling to each other, sharing a bed and eating from the same plate, inseparable.
But now Hassan felt an unbearable pain, like he had ‘lost the other half of myself’. ‘They told me I would be joining him soon, that I shouldn’t cry, Hussein was just going to England ahead of me,’ Hassan told The Mail on Sunday. ‘He would have great opportunities and soon we would be together.’
Mo Farah (left) and brother Hassan (right) were both told they had family members in the UK who they were going to join there
Sir Mo Farah (formerly Hussein Kahin, left) looks strikingly similar to his twin who he was stripped from at 8 (right)
The extraordinary story of Sir Mo Farah’s true identity and trafficking to Britain as an eight-year-old emerged for the first time in a BBC documentary last week
But Hassan would never join his brother. It would be 12 years before the twins met again. By then, the boy Hassan once knew so well was called Mo Farah and had escaped from hellish circumstances to become, against all odds, a world-class athlete winning championships throughout Europe.
The extraordinary story of Sir Mo Farah’s true identity and trafficking to Britain as an eight-year-old emerged for the first time in a BBC documentary last week.
The 2012 Olympic hero revealed the story he has always told about his background – that he was sent to England as a child to live with his father – was untrue.
In fact, his real father died when he and Hassan were just four, killed by shrapnel while herding animals during the Somalian civil war.
The twins were sent by their mother to stay with family in Djibouti. There, Hussein was trafficked into domestic servitude, given a false identity as Mohamed Farah and forced to live a lie.
It is not clear whether he was sold to the traffickers for money, or by which family member. Hassan had no knowledge of what really happened at the time and has since told how that night back in 1992 still haunts him.
‘I was told [Hussein] would be getting on a train to Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, and from there he would catch a plane,’ Hassan said.
‘I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. We both believed we had family members in England and they were going to take us in. They told us everything was going to be OK. But I felt I was losing the other half of myself, my identical twin. There was an empty space in my heart, and they never sent for me to join him.’
He described missing the boyhood pranks they used to play, such as swapping clothes halfway through the school day to confuse their teachers. ‘No one could tell us apart,’ he said. ‘Once we were sitting on the front step of the house and I said something cheeky to a girl walking past. She came back with her brothers to get me into trouble and saw my brother sitting there. They were ready to blame him but in the end I owned up, I couldn’t let him suffer. That’s how it was with him and me.’
Before Mo was sent to England, the twins had lived in dire poverty in a crowded shack-like dwelling on a dusty street in downtown Djibouti, a hot and humid coastal city where locals hardly benefit from the trading activities at the huge port which serves as the commercial gateway to the Suez Canal.
Mo embraces family members during filming for the BBC’s bombshell programme which revealed his childhood adversity
Mo Farah as he wins the men’s 10,000m race at the 2012 Olympics in London. He also won the 5,000m at the same games
Before Mo was sent to England, the twins had lived in dire poverty in a crowded shack-like dwelling on a dusty street in downtown Djibouti
But the boys enjoyed school and they were on a par as running partners, according to Hassan. ‘Sometimes I beat him and sometimes he beat me. We chased each other around a lot. Since then, he’s had the best training and advice in the world with top-class running tracks and gyms to use while I am still here and have had nothing.’
Somehow, in 2004, the successful sportsman who was now Mo Farah tracked down his family and visited them in Somalia.
How much he told them about his early days in England we do not know. The misery of daily drudgery tied to a family of strangers who treated him like dirt and refused to let him go to school; the displacement and bullying that made him a disruptive pupil when he finally started attending Feltham Community College in West London; the overwhelming care and kindness of PE teacher Alan Watkinson who helped him find a way to personal fulfilment and a glittering sports career, and facilitated his prized British passport.
Hassan and his mother and siblings kept any terrible secrets they were told to themselves.
It was just days after Sir Mo’s stupendous success at the 2012 British Olympics – where he won gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m – that Hassan opened his heart to The Mail on Sunday.
Clearly emotional, he had been nursing the shocking secrets of his brother’s early life along with the rest of the family – quite possibly over fears it could have upset Mo’s career and his status as a British citizen. Hassan trimmed his moustache and beard and shaved his head to match his famous brother’s looks. He told of hugging the television and running into the street shouting for joy after watching Mo’s success.
But as this newspaper reported at the time, he had an occasional sad and troubled look. He was holding something back.
Hassan returned to Somalia as a teenager and did well at school, qualifying as a telecoms engineer. That day in 2012, in his family home in a suburb of Hargeisa, northern Somalia, he wore his Team GB jersey with pride and posed for photographs doing the ‘Mobot’ – Sir Mo’s famous pose.
Yesterday, it was claimed that Nimco Farah, the woman accused of trafficking Hussein to the UK and keeping him as a child slave at a flat in West London, is desperate to give her side of the story – but fears her account will not be believed. Her cousin Abdi Gelle told Mail Online: ‘She is in Somaliland and is scared of returning to the UK because she’s worried that she will be arrested and nobody will believe her.
‘There is a lot of dangerous things being said about how she’s a trafficker and kept Mo as a slave. She wants to tell her side of the story but is worried that nobody will listen.’
Mr Gelle and other relatives claim Sir Mo is related to Mrs Farah – who is in her 70s – and was brought to the UK with his family’s consent.
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