“Chiraq” is one of the many nicknames coined for Chicago after it was found that the city’s murder rate in 2012 was higher than the overall death toll of soldiers in Iraq over the same year.
The controversial term resurfaced in local news after at least 45 people were reportedly shot in the city over the weekend, six of them children. The week before, around 37 were attacked, four of them fatally.
Following the events this weekend, Ronald Holt, the commander of the Chicago police department’s Special Activities Division, claimed that the “young men” of Chicago were increasingly resolving their conflicts by using guns and other weapons.
“To tackle gun violence where it is overwhelming communities with the extraordinary loss of lives at an alarming pace, we must deal with it as a social disease and health issue,” Holt told the Guardian in an email. His own 17-year-old son, Blair, was shot dead on a bus in 2007.
Out of the several cases reported past weekend, one was particularly disturbing.
Five children, all of them under the age of 15, were shot by someone who first asked them if they belonged to a gang or not.
"One relative said they had said they were not in the gang; another said shots rang out before they could answer. The gunman hit four girls and a boy," the Chicago Tribune reported.
Chicago is notorious for its homicide rate and rampant violent crimes. According to FBI's statistics for 2012, 500 incidents of "murder and nonnegligent manslaughter" in Chitown were recorded, adding to a total higher than New York City's 419 murders and Detroit's 386 murders. Consequently, the city earned the unenviable title of “Murder Capital Of America”.
However, this year has witnessed a rather disturbing surge in shootings – especially gang-related violence. Many called this year’s Easter weekend, the bloodiest of the year.
The West’s primary reason to intervene and declare war in, for example, Middle Eastern countries has always been the unchecked massacre of innocent citizens.
Perhaps, it’s time the U.S. administration took immediate and effective steps to curb violence at home which is – as we can see in the case of “Chiraq” – spreading like an epidemic.