Their tires have been slashed. Their car windows have been shattered. Their front door was splattered with spray-painted profanity.

For Ghulam Mohammadi and his family living in Burke Centre, the Persian Gulf War has had some unexpected personal consequences. A series of acts of vandalism in the last few months has targeted the Mohammadi family, apparently in the belief that they are Iraqi. But the Mohammadis aren't Iraqi; they aren't even Arabs. They're from Afghanistan.

At first, Mohammadi thought the property destruction was simply random vandalism, but a message in blue spray paint left on his taxicab in the latest incident convinced him otherwise. "Iraqi {Expletive} You!" it said.

"I feel mad," Mohammadi said. "I feel that's no good. I'm not from Iraq . . . . I don't like Iraq. I don't support Saddam."

While some harassment of Arab Americans and Muslims like the Afghans has been reported in the United States since the war started, community leaders have said the backlash has been far more muted than they expected.

For Mohammadi, though, the last few months have been an endless series of nights of wondering what might be next: Will they hurt my children? Will they blow up my house?

After the most recent incident, Mohammadi said he vented his frustration to the responding police officer. "I told him, 'Mr. Officer, that's not the first time, that's the fourth time. If something happens with my kids, I'm not going to call you again. I do something on my own,' " he said.

For now, his only defense flies in front of his home, a gift from a real estate agent who heard about his problems and thought it might ward away vandals: A small U.S. flag.

Mohammadi, 37, said he was a hydrology engineer in Afghanistan before fleeing in 1983 because of the war with the invading Soviets. After three years in Pakistan, he moved to the United States in December 1986. Mohammadi supports his wife, Sayeda, and four daughters by driving a taxicab.

The harassment began in November, when Mohammadi found two of the tires on his taxicab had been slashed. More than a month later, someone broke the back window of the 1989 Chevrolet.

On Jan. 22, just after the war began, he discovered all four tires flattened. Six days later, someone broke a window on his wife's 1984 Dodge, and spray-painted profanities on his taxicab and the front door of his house near Burke Centre Road.

Each time, Mohammadi said he called the police, but no one has been arrested. Mohammadi said he believes he knows the neighbors who are responsible, but has not seen any of the vandalism.

Fairfax County police spokesman Warren Carmichael confirmed that vandalism has been reported in the block where Mohammadi lives on the dates in question and said officers are investigating. However, he added, "Property is a silent witness. There's not a lot to go on."

To the Mohammadis, the incidents are more than pranks.

Disabling his taxicab has cost him a total of four days of work. He said replacing the ruined tires and windows cost about $900 -- roughly as much as Mohammadi brings home in a month.

Finally, he went to a county magistrate asking to have the neighbors he believes are responsible arrested, but he was told to talk with the police. Angry that no one seemed able to help, Mohammadi said he persisted and demanded that the magistrate help and eventually was ordered to leave.

Not knowing where to turn, Mohammadi told his oldest daughter, Saylai, 10, to ask her teacher. Kelly Peaks Horner, a third-grade teacher at Bonnie Brae Elementary School, said she didn't know what to do, so she told Saylai to write an essay about her experience to get her feelings out.

Saylai, a bright, precocious youngster who cannot remember her early years in Afghanistan, said she realizes most Americans aren't mean, but that some are unfairly singling out her family. She said she had been learning about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History Month and understands some of what he must have felt.

"Maybe," she concluded her essay, "someone can help me to understand how people can be so mean and I can help them to understand the beauty of being different."