During his tenure on the National Security Council, Rowhani took a hard-line when dealing with opposition and dissent.
He led the crackdown on the university student uprising in 1999. As the student uprising was growing, Rowhani said on July 14 at a pro-regime rally: "At dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur. From today our people shall witness how in the arena our law enforcement, force . . . shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces."
The "opportunists and riotous elements" to whom Rowhani referred were university students who wanted freedom and democracy. According to the Wall Street Journal of June 17, 2013 "More than a dozen students were killed in those protests, more than 1,000 were arrested, hundreds were tortured, and 70 simply ‘disappeared.’"