Penniless and living on charity in a hostel in Istanbul…we track down the REAL Mo Farah
The man whose name was given to four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah leads a meager existence in a poor suburb of the Turkish city of Istanbul.
While his namesake was knighted for his track triumphs in 2017 and enjoys a luxurious lifestyle, Mohamed Farah was recently forced out of a shabby shared bedroom when a migrant charity could no longer pay the rent of £2.70 per day.
The 39-year-old spends much of his day killing time in a park, where he puffs on cigarettes, or sitting by the side of the road eating plates of food donated by friendly Turkish friends.
The remarkable story of the two Mo Farahs appeared earlier this month in a BBC documentary, in which the athlete – born Hussein Abdi Kahin – told how he was trafficked by a family friend from Africa to Britain for domestic servitude.
Mohammed Farah, 39, was born into poverty like Sir Mo, in Mogadishu, Somalia, and is believed to have studied at Istanbul’s Aydin University, but officials have no record of his involvement.
Sir Mo (pictured with his wife, Tania) was brought to the UK by a woman called Nimco Farah and claims Mukhtar was his real father
Nimco Farah, the woman who brought the future Olympian to the UK when he was eight, gave him the name Mohamed when Mohamed’s birth mother – an ex-wife of Nimco’s husband Mukhtar – refused to allow him to leave for Great Britain.
After being removed from Nimco – which disputes slavery claims – by social services, Mo’s athletic prowess was nurtured, culminating in his remarkable double Olympic double – victories in the 5,000m and 10,000m events at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The Somali-born athlete’s success has led to a red carpet lifestyle and considerable wealth. He, his wife and four children live in a multi-million pound house in south-west London and own a fleet of cars, including a £200,000 Bentley Continental GT and a £60,000 Porsche Macan S.
For its namesake – tracked down last week by The Mail on Sunday – life could hardly be more different. He arrived in Istanbul from Kenya two years ago and until recently lived in a dormitory, his rent paid by a Yemeni charity until it ran out of funds. Friends say he now lives in a neighborhood dubbed “Mogadishu” because of the number of Somali migrants living there. He reportedly studied at Istanbul Aydin University, but authorities found no trace of him.
The student dormitories at Istanbul Aydin University where Mohamed Farah lived until the charity that paid his rent ran out of funds
He collects his daily pack of cigarettes from a convenience store where the owner, Ismail, said: ‘He is a calm and very humble person. His nickname is Moallim [Arabic for teacher].’
The connection between Mohamed and the famous sportsman became known to friends in Istanbul only after the documentary aired.
Ismail said: “Mohamed knew from childhood that his name was being used by another child to go to the UK who became an athlete, but he didn’t tell anyone until Mo Farah said so. on television. It was only after that that he told people about it. That’s the kind of person he is.
Ismail’s wife Aliye said Mohamed, who is single and born in Mogadishu, is struggling financially, but for a short time until three months ago he had worked in a furniture store, earning the equivalent of £140 per month. “He always looked the poorest among his friends,” she added.
Earlier this month, Aliye invited Mohamed and five other Somali migrants to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid with them. Photographs show the group seated around a makeshift table constructed from crates, enjoying lamb and rice.
Mohammed traveled to Turkey two years ago with ‘a dream’ of living in the UK and said he would like to meet the Olympic winner in person
Nimco Farah, 54 (left), said she was coerced into bringing the future Olympian to the country on a forged visa, and denied claims she treated him like a slave Mukhtar Farah, (right) was Nimco’s husband, when Sir Mo Farah was trafficked to the UK
In the BBC1 documentary The Real Mo Farah, the athlete and his namesake were seen chatting on WhatsApp. “I would love to come to the UK,” Mohamed told the Olympian. “I will do my best to make it happen,” Sir Mo replied.
Ismail says his friend hopes that promise will be fulfilled. “Mohamed never wanted to go to the UK until Mo Farah contacted him a few months ago and told him he would take him to the UK,” he said. “Now he wants to go to the UK.”
Friends say the reunion could take place in a matter of weeks and the BBC has secured a visa as part of a follow-up programme. But the BBC said last night there were no plans to bring Mohamed to the UK.
Another friend, Hassan, who lived with Mohamed when he first moved to Istanbul, in a dilapidated dormitory in the suburb of Kucukcekmece, said: “He is now preparing to move permanently to the UK.”
Perhaps fearing to jeopardize these plans, Mohamed refuses offers to tell his story. Contacted by the MoS, he said: “I’m not ready to give an interview at this time.”
Additional reporting by Molly Clayton