The Mail on Sunday
An incredible story, Mo – and it played out like a TV thriller
The Real Mo Farah BBC1, Wednesday ★★★★★ Turkey Teeth: Bargain Smiles Or Big Mistake BBC iPlayer ★★★★★
Oh dear, I thought at the beginning of the week, there’s nothing I actually want to watch. There were shows I could watch. I could watch Paul Hollywood Eats Mexico or James May: Our Man In Italy, but I think you already know that I’ve had it up to here with celebrities being sent abroad to countries they’re not really interested in to speak to people they’re not really interested in.
I could watch the documentary The Real Mo Farah, I thought, but I’ve seen other documentaries on Sir Mo Farah, our greatest long-distance runner. Plus, he’s written his autobiography, has appeared on umpteen talk shows. Move on, nothing to see here.
But, desperate measures, desperate times, and, my God, those opening words: ‘The truth is I’m not who you think I am. Now, whatever the cost, I need to tell my story.’ I sat up then. The real Mo Farah, it turns out, isn’t Mo Farah at all – he’s Hussein Abdi Kahin.
This documentary has now, rightly, made headlines all over the world. It’s an incredible story told by an incredible man, and it was not only fascinatingly gripping but so affecting. I was in tears more than I wasn’t.
It starts when he was nine and trafficked to the UK from Somaliland under the name ‘Mohamed Farah’. He was trafficked into domestic servitude by a lady who, here, is only ever called ‘the lady’. She lived in Feltham, West London, where he was put to work looking after her children. He cooked for them and fed them. He cleaned up after them. He had to do that, he said, ‘if I wanted food in my mouth’. He was told never to say anything about his true identity or he’d be taken away. ‘I’d lock myself in the bathroom and cry.’
He was eventually allowed to go to school, at 11, under the guise of a Somali refugee who had come to London to join his parents. Look, I can’t go into every detail here. It’s a complicated story with many twists, turns and revelations. What I can tell you is that, in TV terms, it played out like a thriller.
Who was ‘the lady’? Were any of his family complicit in the trafficking? Whose name did he take? There was a boy a year ahead of him in school called Mohammed Farah who disappeared. Is there a connection? The woman called Kinsi, who later took him in. Who was she exactly? What did she know? Were his mother and siblings alive or dead?
This last was answered when, as a teenager, he was working part-time in a restaurant and someone came in, saying they knew his mother, who had made him a cassette. We hear the cassette. ‘You are part of my body, my life, Hussein, my dear son…’
We return with him to Somaliland and meet his mother. His father, a farmer, had been killed by stray gunfire in the civil war. His mother had sent Mo and his twin brother to an uncle in Djibouti because it was too dangerous where they were. They were visited by ‘the lady’. Both boys were told they were going to Europe. But then, as his twin tells him, ‘I woke in the morning and you were gone.’
Mo who, we were told, will keep using that name for now, said he had to tell the truth so he could look his children in the eye, and because ‘it’s hard not being honest’ even if it’s necessary to protect yourself. An incredible man, an incredible athlete, an incredible story.
When I first saw there was a documentary about the social-media-fuelled trend for ‘Turkey Teeth’ in the listings, I wondered: turkeys, they have teeth? I even looked it up, only to discover that no, of course, they don’t have teeth, but they do swallow pebbles for grinding food in their gizzards, so I did learn something.
It was only once I started watching Turkey Teeth: Bargain Smiles Or Big Mistake that I realised it was about people who travel to Turkey, the country (!), in pursuit of the latest beauty ideal. That is, a full set of perfectly white, perfectly gleaming, perfectly perfect teeth.
This is presented by Trishala Lakhani, who is both a dentist and a Miss Universe finalist, which was unexpected (my bad). The deal is that you fly to Turkey, stay in a luxury hotel, and have all your teeth replaced for ‘a quarter’ of what it would cost here.
One Love Island fella said it was the best thing he’d ever done. Others, though, said they’d been in pain every day since. It involves having your natural teeth filed down to pegs – please, don’t ever show me those photos again – which takes away 70 per cent of living tissue, and then all the teeth are crowned, in effect.
Many didn’t understand what they were getting into. Your own teeth, what’s left of them, will die off eventually and then that’s it, it’ll have to be dentures, like your nan had, which always creeped you out.
I’m glad I saw it because I don’t have perfectly white, perfectly perfect teeth, but they are my teeth, and you know what I think now? They’ll do.