April 22, 2014
Chiraq: Chicago More Violent Than Iraq After 45 Shootings Easter Weekend, Including Five Children On Playground

Chiraq has become the new nickname for Chicago after the embattled city saw 45 shootings on Easter weekend has now grown more violent than even war-torn Iraq.

The nickname has grown in popularity with Windy City residents, who have been desperately trying to find a way to end the violence there. This weekend was particularly deadly, as 45 people were shot on Easter weekend including five children on a playground after Easter church services ended.

Witnesses say a car pulled up to the kids and a person inside asked if they were in a gang. It isn't clear if the person inside the car gave them time to answer before opening fire, shooting five people. Tymisha Washington, an 11-year-old, was the most seriously wounded and was listed in critical condition.

In another shooting, two men inside a car were fatally shot. There were two children inside the car at the time --- ages 3 and 7 --- but were physically unharmed.

The Chiraq nickname is more than just a clever play on words. Experts say residents of the city's hardest hit neighborhood are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms similar to veterans returning from Iraq.

The city has also drawn comparisons to war zones before, with experts noting in 2012 that the city's murder rate had climbed above Afghanistan's.

Some are blaming guns, noting that Chicago police have seized 1,500 illegal guns so far this year but there are countless more still on the streets.

"Until we do something about guns, don't expect things to change overnight," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said at a press conference that same day.

The Chiraq nickname has also been fueled by a high-profile hip-hop turf war doing down on Chicago's streets. Allies of up-and-coming rapper Lil Jay, who are part of the Gangster Disciples gang, and have been clashing with Black Gangster gang members aligned with Keith "Chief Keef" Cozart, a rapper signed to Dr. Dre's Interscope Records.

The feud has seen several killings, including 18-year-old rapper Joseph "Lil JoJo" Coleman, an ally of Lil Jay, in 2012. Chief Keef's 30-year-old cousin, Mario "Blood Money" Hess, was murdered just days ago. Odee Perry, 20, was killed in 2011 after appearing in one of Keef's videos.

Despite the Chiraq nickname, the murder rate in Chicago is actually on the decline this year, and is now about half what it was in the early 1990s.