By Mohamed Hasni - BAGHDAD
"Look, that's me," says Adam, a Sudanese worker, showing his photograph in a local newspaper, hooded, handcuffed, flanked by Iraqi police.
"We were 47 Sudanese all dealt with this way, arrested at dawn in the same building, mistreated and insulted before being freed at the end of the day," Adam said.
Adam does not dare stray out of his neighborhood of Bataween, which has a reputation for crime, ranging from robbery to prostitution and all kinds of trafficking.
But even here he is not safe. The police and army frequently raid the district teeming with non-Iraqi Arab nationals, whom Iraqis view with suspicion, eyeing everyone as a fighter here to wage holy war.
Reminders that they are living in hostile territory abound. Two banners hang in the nearby public park, named Tahrir square, where people mill about.
"We support the decision of the new government to launch the war against terror and to hunt all the Arabs," the banners say.
The government of outgoing Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi initiated a campaign of constant sweeps in slums like Bataween frequented by Arab foreign nationals living on the fringe. The government suspected them of involvement in crime and the insurgency.
It has left the expatriates living in fear.
"They (Iraqis) watch me on public transportation and sometimes they crowd around me before letting me step on the bus," said Sudanese Idriss Daoud, 35, who quit his studies at Baghdad's art college because of the new attitude among Iraqis.
For a month-and-a-half, the state channel al-Iraqiya has run nightly confessions of suspected "terrorists", including Sudanese, Syrians and Saudis.
Newspapers publish stories of multifarious deeds by Arab nationals, including foreign suicide bombers on Iraq's milestone January 30 election day.
"The Iraqis believe these stories and every day I am bothered by crowds and questioned by the police," said Sudanese grocer Abu Yasser, whose shop is on a street filled with garbage, sewage, and street sellers.
"Although we are here legally, we are harassed and we are summoned regularly by the immigration services who issue our residency permits."
His landlord, Haj Ahmed Mohammed Amin al-Jaff, 76, who spent 50 years in the district, is worried about his Arab friends.
"I want to help Abu Yasser, who has rented my shop for the last seven years and is like a son to me," says Jaff, who runs an adjoining dairy product store.
In the Cafe Tunis, with decrepit walls and rickety benches, the Egyptian manager says Arabs feel the animosity in the air.
"The pressure is too strong," said Alaa Zaitoun.
"The police harassment is daily," he said, adding cops regularly raided his cafe where customers sip sugary tea from thimble-sized glasses.
"We were better treated before," he says.